The International Civil Aviation Organisation (Icao) must urgently inspect the SA Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) and all South African Airports.
This was the call from Chris Hunsinger, DA member of parliament and spokesperson on transport, after the partial release on Monday of an investigative report of the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) of Ethiopia into a local crash that killed all flight crew members.
The AAIB investigated the crash of an SACAA aircraft that was tasked to carry out a calibration flight at the George Aerodome on January 23, 2021 in which all three flight crew members were killed.
Hunsinger said that he would write to the chairperson of the parliamentary portfolio committee on transport, Mosebenzi Joseph Zwane, to request that SACAA release the full report of the investigation as page 56, which contains paragraphs 19 to 30 of the conclusions, had been omitted from the released report.
In the report the AAIB noted that it had found a host of irregularities in the operation of the Cessna S550 ZS-CAR, including:
- ZC-CAR’s Certificate of Airworthiness was invalid at the time of the accident due to the flight data recorder (FDR) not being updated annually;
- ZC-CAR conducted multiple operations for several months in 2021 without the proper authorisation of the Flight Inspection Unit (FIU) in place;
- There was no sufficient graded evidence that the pilot-in-command (PIC) had performed the mandatory unusual altitude recovery training on a simulator;
- Irregularities in assigning the PIC to the flight;
- The aircraft did not trigger the recording of all the mandatory parameters on the FDR; and
- There was no indication of whether the installed Terrain Avoidance Warning System was operational at the time of the crash.
AAIB made several safety recommendations, including that the SACAA install FDRs capable of recording all mandatory parameters and that the South African Accident and Incident Investigations Division (AIID) become independent of SACAA “and other entities that could interfere with the objectivity of an investigation” to ensure full accountability.
The AAIB also called for an in-depth review of the FIU to ensure that operators comply with all requirements and that crew are proficient in unusual altitude recovery according to regulations.
“Navigational calibration is crucial for airports and aircraft. Without these measures, safety of flight crew and passengers cannot be guaranteed. That SACAA would flaunt vital compliance regulations and standards is unacceptable,” Hunsinger said,
“This brings to mind the dangerous SAA alpha-floor event on February 24, 2021 which SACAA seemingly tried to sweep under the rug. Serious questions regarding the safety standards of air crew and other personnel were put under the microscope (in the report),” he said.
“While the AAIB report does not explicitly state that SACAA tried to influence an AIID investigation, the recommendation that AIID become fully independent does indicate that there does seem to be undue influence over investigations.”
He added that the SACAA’s “growing ineptitude” had a “big impact” on the country’s aviation sector which had led to several airstrips at airports being downgraded due to safety concerns, which was the direct responsibility of SACAA.
“Downgraded airports have a major impact on our international aviation status and the flight routes through our country, tourism and the economy,” he added.