SACAA will leave no stone unturned in investigating 'bizarre' landing of small aircraft at OR Tambo

12 September 2019 - 20:15 By Ernest Mabuza
O R Tambo International Airport
O R Tambo International Airport
Image: via Google photo

The investigation by the SA Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) into the unusual landing of a small aircraft at OR Tambo International Airport on August 29 is being treated as a priority.

The incident had a direct bearing on aviation safety and security, and SACAA director of civil aviation Poppy Khoza said the authority would do everything possible to avoid a repeat of a similar incident.

The investigation is being carried out by inspectors from the SACAA and investigators from the Accident and Incident Investigations Division, an independent unit tasked with investigating aircraft accidents and serious incidents on behalf of the transport department.

“While we are grateful that this was a non-fatal incident, which we view as bizarre, worrying, and an extremely dangerous act, we are resolute that we will leave no stone unturned in ensuring that those responsible are held accountable.

"All facts, evidence, and sequence of events and or decisions by all involved will be interrogated thoroughly,” Khoza said.

The incident in question relates to a private flight involving a small aircraft called RV-10, which is a four-seater, single-engine, low-wing, amateur built airplane sold in kit form. The SACAA said in line with its classification, the aircraft was regarded as experimental, and was mainly used for recreational purposes. 

The authority said the departure point of this South African-registered aircraft was the Free State's New Tempe Airport, and the intended point of landing was OR Tambo International Airport.

"According to the preliminary information at our disposal, this was a private flight, and the aircraft was carrying three people on board, (that is) two passengers and a pilot who holds a private pilot’s licence. Private pilot’s licence holders are not authorised to conduct any commercial operations," SACAA spokesperson Kabelo Ledwaba said.

The aircraft landed at the OR Tambo International Airport at approximately 1.35pm.

“Even though the aircraft did not sustain any damage, and no injuries to persons on board or on the ground were reported, what is very strange is the fact that the pilot landed the aircraft on a taxiway instead of a runway,” Khoza said.

A taxiway is a route along which an aircraft can taxi when moving to or from a runway.

“Many questions still need to be answered in order to arrive at a factual conclusion as to what led to this hazardous incident. It should not have happened, and it must surely never happen again," Khoza said.

Khoza said the landing had security implications as only passengers and personnel that had been screened or had the necessary authorisation were allowed on the airside of the airport. Khoza said the incident had a direct bearing on aviation safety and security.

"South Africa holds an impeccable aviation safety and security record, and therefore, we will not allow anyone to undermine the safety and security of passengers and crew, which is why we shall do all possible to avoid a repeat of the similar incident,” Khoza said.