Lift-off again for CemAir after months of being grounded over maintenance issues

18 October 2019 - 07:12 By Naledi Shange
The decision to halt flights was taken after aviation inspectors found‚ during an audit‚ that some of the aircraft serviced by the airline’s maintenance organisation were released back to service or cleared as airworthy by unqualified personnel. That qualified as a contravention of the country’s aviation regulations.
The decision to halt flights was taken after aviation inspectors found‚ during an audit‚ that some of the aircraft serviced by the airline’s maintenance organisation were released back to service or cleared as airworthy by unqualified personnel. That qualified as a contravention of the country’s aviation regulations.
Image: FlyCemAir

The South African Civil Aviation Authority has given CemAir the green light for its planes to take off again.

In a statement, the aviation authority said the airline had been reissued with two of its operating certificates.

“The South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) can confirm that after finally managing to address safety concerns that were raised by the SACAA, CemAir has obtained the necessary approvals for two Air Operator Certificates (AOCs), which give the airline the green light to take back to the skies. The two certificates pave the way for CemAir to conduct operations under Part 121 and Part 135 of the civil aviation regulations,” said aviation spokesperson Kabelo Ledwaba.

“In aviation, the term ‘part’ means specific governing regulations of a particular type of operation. In this case, Part 121 AOC approval means that CemAir can now resume commercial air transport operations with an aircraft that can carry more than 19 passengers. Part 135 AOC approval allows the certificate-holder to conduct commercial air transport operations with an aircraft that can carry up to a maximum of 19 passengers.”

The airline’s operations were suspended — not for the first time — in December at the height of the festive season due to what the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) called “concerns over the systematic failure of the airline’s maintenance controls”.

When the CAA barred the airline from flying, it said it had been unable to prove the “continued airworthiness” of its fleet of 21 planes which service major South African cities as well as towns such as Margate, Hoedspruit, Plettenberg Bay and Richards Bay.

Ledwaba said: “After several legal processes, the SACAA eventually continued to finalise the AOCs renewal audit, which is an obligatory audit consistent with its statutory mandate.”

Earlier this month, CemAir’s MD Miles van der Molen told TimesLIVE that they had gone to great extremes to get relicensed.

Four months ago, the civil aviation appeal committee set aside the two grounding notices, calling the CAA’s decision “irrational, arbitrary, unreasonable and procedurally unfair”. But the fleet remained on the ground while the airline has been made to “jump through hoops” by the CAA, Van der Molen said this week.

“We must be the safest airline in the world by now,” he said at the time.

The aviation authority, however, moved to clarify that it had not intentionally made things difficult for the airline.

“The renewal of an AOC is not automatic, as it is based on the satisfactory completion of a renewal audit process as stipulated in the South African civil aviation regulations. During the audit, several discrepancies came to the fore and were brought to the attention of CemAir. These discrepancies related to, among others, concerns regarding the operator’s Aircraft Maintenance Programme. Further engagements between CemAir and the SACAA ensued, with the aim of addressing the shortcomings,” said Ledwaba.

Besides its licensing woes, the airline had to satisfy the complaints of thousands of people who had purchased tickets which they were unable to use.

Van der Molen said they had done all they could to attend to the queries, adding that more than 50% of those who had legitimate claims had been refunded.

“But we do not pander to those who are rude on social media,” he said. “It would be unfair to those who are not.”

The airline had been “inundated” with fraudulent claims, which had slowed down the refund process, he said.


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