A bulldozer scopes the debris of the Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 plane crash before a commemoration ceremony at the scene of the crash, near the town of Bishoftu, south-east of Addis Ababa. Photo: Reuters

Cape Town – Improving aviation safety security and growth came under the spotlight at the three-day National Aviation Conference hosted by the SA Civil Aviation Authority (Sacaa) this week.

The gathering came at a time when Africa was reeling after one of its worst aviation disasters to date, where 157 passengers including eight crew members were killed when Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 crashed on Sunday.

According to reports, this was the second crash involving the Boeing 737 Max 8 after an Indonesian crash in October where 189 people were killed.

The crash data is still being investigated and no evidence has yet linked the incidents.

Sacaa director Poppy Khoza said: “Information sharing forums such as this one are very important.

“An incident-free airspace over the African continent can only become a permanent reality when we get into the habit of engaging each other as regulators, manufacturers, and operators in an honest and robust manner about what could sometimes be uncomfortable topics.”

Khoza said Sacaa aimed for their regulations to be developed in sync with innovation.

“That is where we are dependent on the industry, such as manufacturers and designers, to keep us in the loop, and indicate what we need to be prepared for.

“We ideally want any new inventions in the aviation field to become part of our aviation safety culture from the beginning by us working on safety parameters together. 

"Furthermore, regulations will eventually need to be adopted to talk to specific operations and to be adaptable as innovations progress.”

They also want to have regulations that were not “unnecessarily burdensome and time-consuming”.

“Enforcements of any kind are purely aimed at fulfilling our mandate of ensuring safety and security for all passengers, aircrew and those on the ground.

“We therefore have to execute our mandate without any form of fear, favour, or prejudice, and I am sure that all the delegates here would agree with me in this respect.”

Meanwhile, Sacaa has started the process of getting South Africa ready for the ICAO’s Universal Security Audit Programme Continuous Monitoring Approach (USAP-CMA).

“The objective of the USAP-CMA is to promote global aviation security through continuous auditing and monitoring of member states’ aviation security performance in order to enhance their aviation security compliance and oversight capabilities,” Khoza said.

Gender equality in the industry was also in the spotlight as Sacaa said only 3% of commercial pilots globally were women.

Cape Times