Red tape grounds Covid-19 aid flights

02 August 2020 - 00:05 By SUNDAY TIMES CORRESPONDENT
Volunteer pilots of Covid flights are being investigated.
Volunteer pilots of Covid flights are being investigated.
Image: Supplied

Covid-19 mercy flights that deliver food and medical supplies to about 10,000 people in SA's remotest regions have been grounded by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

The volunteer pilots of Covid Flight are being investigated by the Hawks for allegedly breaching disaster management regulations by failing to get clearance to operate the flights.

But the organisation said numerous applications for permission from the transport department were ignored. "It's not like we just flew. We alerted the authorities to every flight," said operations director Felix Gosher.

Since April, 50 pilots have delivered 150t of supplies to farming communities, orphanages and old-age homes in the Northern Cape, Limpopo, North West and Mpumalanga.

CAA spokesperson Kabelo Ledwaba said Covid Flight had violated the Disaster Management Act and lockdown regulations and the authority had asked the Hawks to investigate. "After reports were received of the flights, the pilots were contacted on April 20," he said.

Sue Smit, CEO of the Acorn Foundation, which runs poverty alleviation programmes with grassroots organisations, said the grounding was a disaster. "How is feeding the destitute in the time of a disaster not essential? People are begging for help, but we can't because we are apparently breaking the law."

Helicopter pilot Charles Fuller said Covid Flight had helped dozens of communities. "These people are desperate for any kind of help," he said. 


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