CemAir grounded over safety concerns

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CemAir airline faces losing its air operating certificate (AOC) should it not provide the SA Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) with valid reasons explaining why the certificate should not be revoked by 1.30pm today.

According to SACAA inspectors, following a permit renewal audit, the airline allegedly contravened the Civil Aviation Act and five other civil aviation regulations.

The Johannesburg-based airline, operating flights between Cape Town and Plettenberg Bay, as well as Cape Town and Hoedspruit, could neither produce nor demonstrate the appointment of an approved and suitably qualified “responsible person: flight operations” – a critical position as required by the Civil Aviation Regulations, said Simon Segwabe, the executive for aviation safety operations at the time of the audit.

The 24-hour suspension on Wednesday comes after a 30-day period requested by the operator for the appointment of an interim responsible person: flight operations, which in turn would have afforded them an opportunity to recruit a permanent employee.

This is the second time this year the airline has been caught in controversy over its staff.

Twelve of CemAir’s aircraft were grounded when inspectors found they were serviced and cleared by unqualified staff in their maintenance department earlier this year.

Segwabe said on Wednesday: “They don’t have anybody assigned to ensure that their operations are safe.

“They had previously requested the person appointed on an acting basis for a period of 30 days. That extension expired on December 6.

“It was subsequently found that CemAir continued to utilise an employee in the position of responsible person: flight operations that was not competent, despite being formally notified of the SACAA’s decision to decline the request to have this particular employee appointed to occupy this very critical position, as he did not meet the stipulated requirements.

“This malpractice demonstrates that CemAir is intentionally violating applicable civil aviation regulations.

“This non-compliance violates the prescribed regulatory provisions applicable to a holder of both the Air Services Licence Permit, and AOC.”

The findings of the inspection determined that CemAir, as the AOCs holder, in the exercise of its permit privileges, had failed to comply with the prescribed requirements.

“Their actions in this regard therefore pose an immediate and serious safety hazard and risk to the public at large, as well as other airspace users and its crew, and passengers.”

SACAA said they regretted that their decision would affect travellers negatively, but it was necessary in the interests of advancing aviation safety.

“It is the SACAA’s wish that effective and prompt resolution of the issues raised will be found; and hence the authority will provide any assistance possible to the operator, and within the regulator’s mandate, in order to ensure that the matter is resolved as soon as possible,” added Segwabe.

CemAir did not respond to questions by deadline.

In March, the airline was embroiled in a dispute with the Bitou Municipality after allegedly failing to honour an agreement, leading the municipality to end its operations on the Plettenberg Bay Airport premises.

At the time, the municipality said CemAir was granted use of the airport at a fixed monthly fee and since the company had not honoured the provisions of the agreement, council resolved to halt the services of the aircraft.

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