Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula. File photo: ANA

PARLIAMENT – Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula on Tuesday afternoon said the grounding of several aircraft operating in South Africa due to several irregularities identified by the SA Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) was not a crisis and disruptions to flights should be a thing of the past by the end of the week.

"We shouldn't panic.... before the end of the week, everything should be back to normal," Mbalula told a media briefing at Parliament.

"From all the reports we've got, this is not a total shutdown...it is a normal process and airlines are erring on the side of caution and everything will be back to normal."

The grounding of flights followed an audit by the SACAA more than a week ago at South African Airways Technical (SAAT), which provides maintenance at technical services to South African Airways (SAA), Mango and Comair. 

Comair operates British Airways and low-cost airline kulula.com in South Africa. The SACAA identified several irregularities, which Mbalula said he could not provide details on.

"We are pleased that SAA Technical has since submitted a Corrective Action Plan (CAP) aimed at addressing the irregularities. The Corrective Action Plan submitted was found to be acceptable by the SACAA," the minister told journalists.

"The delays and cancellations experienced this morning were precautionary measures taken by the affected airlines in order to ensure that no aircraft takes to the skies without absolute certainty as to its airworthiness."

Mbalula confirmed that comments by SAA's chief and risk compliance officer, Advocate Vusi Pikoli, that there could be an organised crime syndicate involved in the theft of parts at SAAT and its replacement with fake parts, prompted the SACAA audit.

African News Agency (ANA)