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A look at how Covid disrupted SA aviation operations

The pandemic disruptions affected both the aviation operations and personnel as the competency of personnel could not be adequately maintained. File Image: IOL

The pandemic disruptions affected both the aviation operations and personnel as the competency of personnel could not be adequately maintained. File Image: IOL

Published May 19, 2022

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THE Covid-19 pandemic disruptions affected both the aviation operations and personnel as the competency of personnel could not be adequately maintained as both local and international Aviation Training Organisations were not operational and/or inaccessible, according to the South African Civil Aviation Authority.

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The aviation safety regulator’s director of Civil Aviation (CEO) Dr Poppy Khoza said that when aviation travel resumed again, there were a lot of aviation safety-related challenges that required the co-operation between licence and approval holders.

“In 2022, it appears that the industry is regaining confidence in using air transport as a mode of transport, keeping in mind the Covid-19 scares that we all had to endure. There has been improvement in the number of travelling passengers-even beyond the numbers that were initially projected-and we are optimistic that this trajectory will continue to improve,” Khoza said.

The Covid 19 pandemic brought civil aviation to a standstill as various countries closed their entry ports and borders. This affected both the generation of revenue as well as aviation safety. Lots of airlines were closed and those that remained in operation had to scale down.

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In response to this, SACAA will host the SACAA International Flight Inspection Symposium which Khoza described as the medium for standardisation and continuity in the exchange of technical, regulatory, and commercial flight inspection information next month. She said that its purpose was to promote airspace system safety by encouraging competency of flight inspection services worldwide, and to establish a resource for flight inspection information. “Its significance is to provide the opportunity for participants from our continent who work in the Aviation/Navigation sector the chance to experience the importance of their field of work and how their contribution to safety fits into the world airspace integrated system. It is also to provide an affordable opportunity to the continent to participate in an event of this magnitude for the first time in Africa,” she said.

The conference will be composed of Academia and Research Organisations, System Integrators and Procedure Designers. Its accomplishments include the International Committee for Airspace and Calibration Standards (ICASC) originated guidance material for Quality Assurance Manual, ICAO DOC 9906; Volume 5,Validation of Instrument Flight Procedures and Volume 6 Flight Validation Pilot Training and Evaluation.

Its future work will include the harmonisation of the Qualification for F.I. Equipment Performance and Verification of Standards.

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Khoza said that there has been continuous improvements in both the alignment of the South African regulations to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Standards and Recommended Practice. She said that this has become evident in the improvement of the ICAO Effective Implementation over the years. “Between 2007 and 2020, South Africa have been part of the ICAO Universal Safety Oversight Audit Program methodology (USOAP) evolution; the country went through a Comprehensive Systems Audit (USOAP CSA) in 2007. This was followed by an ICAO Coordinated Validation Mission (ICVM) in 2013. The ICVM occurred a year after the methodology had evolved from the Comprehensive Systems Audit to the Continuous Monitoring Approach (USOAP CMA).”

SACAA said that in 2017, South Africa had a limited scope on-site USOAP CMA Audit, as the scope excluded an area of ANS and AGA. In 2018, ICAO performed an off-site audit of the two areas that were not part of the on-site audit (AGA and ANS) and this was followed by an off-site validation of some of the 2017 USOAP CMA Audit Corrective Action Plans.

In 2020, ICAO implemented a new edition of the rationalised (reduced) Audit questions which had an implication on the Effective Implementation (EI) by approximately 1.3 percent reduction across all the 193 member states.

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Khoza said the Civil Aviation Amendment Act has been signed by the President and plans were on track to develop associated regulations before proclamation. She added that the Federal Aviation Administration assessment took place in November last year with plans in place to close all associated findings. “In August 2022, ICAO USAP audit will take place in South Africa with engagements ongoing with regards to ICAO USOAP CMA audit that we anticipate will take place next year (in 2023).”

The SACAA extended its focus on General Aviation(GA) by the establishment of a dedicated Department for GA in 2019. Before this, the SACAA dealt with GA through the Flight Ops department and through a designated body for recreational aviation. The oversight extended by the Flight Ops department and General Aviation Department was done in accordance with Oversight and Surveillance plans, and in line with the international practice and the continuous monitoring approach.

The SACAA IFIS Symposium will take place at the ICC in Durban from 20-24 June 2022. Khoza said that the event will also portray its solidarity with Durban and the broader region following the devastation of parts of the country’s infrastructure, homes and the loss of over 400 lives.

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