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Grounded FlySafair incident has called for questions in the aviation industry

A FlySafair had experienced the same problem three times. Photo supplied.

A FlySafair had experienced the same problem three times. Photo supplied.

Published Apr 7, 2022

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The South African Civil Aviation Authority (Sacca) has grounded one of FlySafair's aircraft after its asymmetric flap system problem reoccurred for the third time in a week, leading to concerns about the airline’s safety.

The same aircraft is reported to have had an occurrence of the flap problem a week ago on a run between East London and Cape Town and had to be diverted to Gqeberha for closer inspection.

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“Once on the ground, the crew reset the sensors and inspected and tested the component in question. It was found that there was actually no issue with the component and that the crew had received what is referred to as an indication error,” FlySafair spokesperson Kirby Gordon told the media then.

A source said the second incident was while the same aircraft was on a flight from Lanseria to Cape Town and it had to be diverted to Bloemfontein. On Monday it took off from East London to Cape Town but could not proceed.

“CAA took a decision to ground the plane for a full audit,” said the source, an industry insider, who declined to be named, but raised concerns about the maintenance of the fleet and safety of passengers.

Sacca spokesperson Phindiwe Gwebu confirmed yesterday that a FlySafair aircraft had been grounded for safety audits, but dismissed the possibility that the entire airline’s fleet of 26 planes faced the same fate.

“The FlySafair incident involves the same aircraft and it was, therefore, grounded. I have not been briefed yet on whether the technical team will look at the entire fleet. I am not sure where that comes from,” she said.

The FlySafair incident comes hot on the heels of its rival Comair last month being grounded by the regulator over safety concerns.

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Aviation analyst Phuthego Mojapele said the incident was unfortunate for FlySafair because it was one of the airlines making a strong comeback post the Covid-19 travel restrictions and was filling a significant gap in the market.

Mojapili said in general, the industry maintenance repair and operations (MRO) outfits  were overwhelmed by the full-tilt return of flying, which was hampered by technicians and engineers having been laid off at the height of Covid-19 restrictions and saw people taking positions in other markets.

“Most MROs scaled down during Covid and they lost the full complement of staff they had. The return to full-scale operations might be overwhelming for some operators. It might be difficult for them to do full-scale scrutiny of aircraft,” he said.

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