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SACAA sets record straight on SAA flight from Accra in April

The SA Civil Aviation Authority said the incident involving a SAA flight from Accra, Ghana, in April, was investigated according to the book.
The SA Civil Aviation Authority said the incident involving a SAA flight from Accra, Ghana, in April, was investigated according to the book.
Image: 123rf.com/ Shih-Hao Liao

The SA Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) on Wednesday disputed “false and sensationalist” allegations levelled against it by DA shadow minister of transport MP Chris Hunsinger on Monday.

In a statement, Hunsinger said the DA was appalled that transport minister Fikile Mbalula seemed to be trying to protect SACAA from being held to account, especially in light of yet another serious safety concern on an SA Airways (SAA) flight.

Hunsinger said a plane full of passengers was put in danger on April 15 when an SAA Airbus A330-300 appeared to have left Accra, Ghana, with significantly water-contaminated fuel.

“Reportedly, when the engines started to surge, the crew did not follow the normal safety procedures, which put the aircraft and everyone on board in danger,” Hunsinger alleged.

Hunsinger said what the DA found most concerning was the fact the SACAA reportedly only learnt of the incident on April 25, and that it was not reported by SAA as dictated by procedures.

In its response on Wednesday, SACAA said it was deeply concerned with the “false and sensationalist” allegations spread by Hunsinger on the handling of the SAA incident from Ghana.

“These are the facts which he elected not to seek clarity on for reasons only known to himself,

SACAA received an incident notification on the Regulator‘s Central Safety Reporting System from SAA on April 17 after the incident on April 15.”

SACAA  said the civil aviation regulations give operators up to 72 hours to report incidents to the SACAA depending on the nature of the incident, and this requirement was complied with.

SACAA said the airline reported that when the crew was preparing to take off from Accra for OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, it noticed a warning light in the cockpit that pointed to fuel contamination.

“The crew activated the safety procedures, which led to the draining of the water-contaminated fuel, followed by the refuelling of the aircraft.

“The aircraft subsequently continued with the return commercial scheduled flight to OR Tambo International Airport.”

SACAA said while flying over Botswana, the crew experienced a low-pressure fuel warning and exercised safety flight procedures and landed safely in Johannesburg. 

“The report by SAA on the SACAA’s Central Safety Reporting System triggered an annex 19 SACAA safety inspection or investigation as per part 140 for the state of operator. 

“The Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) Ghana were notified of the fuel contamination incident and are investigating the matter as the state of occurrence according to annex 13 provisions,” SACAA said.

SACAA said it undertook an annex 19 safety investigation on SAA from April 19.

“Depending on the final outcome of this safety investigation, the SACAA may take enforcement action against SAA if they are found to have been negligent or non-compliant with the (civil aviation regulations). ”

SACAA said there was no requirement to publish annex 19 safety investigation reports and the SACAA has never done this in the past or present with any operator.

SACAA said SA’s aviation training standards are well recognised internationally, as verified by independent international bodies.


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