WATCH | 'There's no crisis': Fikile Mbalula on grounded passenger planes

22 October 2019 - 18:01 By THABO MOKONE

Transport minister Fikile Mbalula has insisted that "there's no crisis" in the aviation industry after the country's major airlines, SAA and Comair, grounded some of their flights on Tuesday.

This after the aviation industry regulator, the SA Civil Aviation Authority (Sacaa), notified them of several irregularities uncovered during a safety audit of their maintenance supplier, SAA Technical.

At an impromptu press briefing at parliament on Tuesday, Mbalula said the airlines had decided to ground the aircraft affected by the audit outcomes as a precautionary measure.

He expected normality to return to the domestic aviation industry by the end of the week.

"We're pleased that SAA Technical has since submitted a corrective action plan, aimed at addressing the irregularities. The corrective action plan was found to be acceptable by the Sacaa.

"The delays and cancellations experienced this morning were precautionary measures taken by the affected airlines to ensure that no aircraft takes to the skies without certainty as to its airworthiness," said Mbalula. "Safety of our people is paramount and airlines owe a duty to their customers to ensure that aircraft that are in service meet the safety standards."

Mbalula said he did not expect the safety concerns to affect the tourism industry ahead of the festive season.

"It should be avoided, it's not a crisis, it's not for the first time that planes have been grounded for different reasons," he said.

Mbalula said the Sacaa's latest safety audit was triggered by a report by SAA's risk, legal and compliance chief Vusi Pikoli which raised the alarm about possible criminal syndicates that may have infiltrated SAA Technical.

"After the Pikoli report, the audit was conducted and to that extent a report was given to the operators. They have responded with a full action plan to address the deficiencies that regulators have found."