SA Civil Aviation Authority sets record straight on SAA takeoff incident
The South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) has set the record straight over allegations that it favoured South African Airways after a takeoff incident was reported three weeks later.
According to the Business Maverick, the SAA crew allegedly “miscalculated the take-off weight (TOW)” of Airbus 340-600 when they collected the second consignment of Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccines from Brussels last month.
In a statement on March 25, SACAA said it refused “to be pulled into political fights”.
The organisation claimed the recent spate of allegations and accusations questioned the credibility and the independence of the regulator.
“The SAA is but one operator among a multitude of operators that the SACAA regulates. SAA operations have in the past 12 months drastically changed as a result of its woes, which are widely publicised but are not related to safety and security non-compliance. Of concern to the Regulator is that an application for an exemption, which was approved by the SACAA and a common phenomenon and certainly not unique to SAA, is being twisted to paint a picture that the SAA is receiving preferential treatment from the Regulator," the statement read.
SACAA revealed that they process several exemptions from various operators in the industry daily.
It stated that an exemption process is a legislated and an international best practice. In line with the Civil Aviation Regulations provisions, an exemption application is submitted by the licence holder, the SAA in this instance, to request permission from the Regulator to deviate from the set legal requirements.
The applicant must submit a risk assessment to give assurance and comfort to the Regulator that, despite deviating from the set Regulatory requirements, measures have been put in place to ensure that safety will not be compromised.
It stated that these applications undergo a rigorous assessment process by various departments within the SACAA to ensure that the granting of such an exemption will not jeopardise aviation safety.
It said during the exemption assessment process, the application may go back and forth in the quality control system until the civil aviation safety and security risk is sufficiently mitigated.
"This is by no means an overnight process. The recent obsession over the exemption granted to the SAA has left the Regulator perplexed as to the motives of those who have leaked this exemption to the public. Our conclusion can only be that this was to deliberately confuse and mislead the public.
"As the SACAA, we are convinced that this is the ultimate aim as only the outcome letter of the exemption was leaked whilst the other supporting documents which contain more details have not been shared with the public. We are equally convinced that this exercise sought to confuse the public and create an impression that this is an anomaly, while this is not the truth.
"Moreover, misleading statements were made to the effect that the SACAA granted 13 exemptions while the truth is that only1exemption in relation to the competency and recency of the crew training was made. In granting this exemption, all applicable provisions were considered and mitigated and all the affected regulatory provisions were included to close the gaps, which may compromise civil aviation safety and security," the statement further revealed.
It said the SAA filed an incident report as required by the law, but failed to file the report within the prescribed period between 24, 48 and 72 hours, depending on the nature of the incident.
"Upon receipt of the incident report, the SACAA put together a team of technical experts to investigate the incident. Based on the outcomes of the investigation, the SACAA will take corrective action(s) commensurate with the non-compliance. Until the investigation is concluded, the Regulator cannot comment further about this matter as anything to the contrary will based only on speculation," it stated.
The SACAA said it was "channelling its efforts to spearhead this recovery" and "ensure that it discharges its legislative obligations as contained in the Civil Aviation Act."
"The SACAA is not a political party and therefore has no interest in playing politics. Its mandate is clearly defined, and politics is not one those responsibilities. The SACAA is entrusted with delivering on its mandate diligently and this is done without fear or favour or any political pressure and/or interference," the statement concluded.