CAA grounds BA, Kulula

Source: Simple Flying 

The South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) had initially suspended the air operator certificate for Comair for 24-hours as a precautionary measure, effectively grounding its fleet and affecting passengers using low-cost airline Kulula, as well as flights for British Airways.

Effective from 12 March, the SACAA made a sudden decision to suspend all the flights that affected several passengers, creating havoc in airports across South Africa. The snap suspension arose from the SACAA’s investigations into a number of safety incidents involving Comair and its airlines: low-cost subsidiary Kulula and British Airways in South Africa.

Still not safe to fly

Following the initial 24-hour suspension, the South African carrier was quick to rectify one of the operational issues raised as an effort to confirm its compliance with applicable Civil Aviation Regulations (CARs).

The quick response was due to Comair hoping to resume its flights by Sunday latest, but the hopes were promptly dashed as the initial suspension soon became indefinite the SACAA said they were pending resolution to various other issues. As SACAA spokesperson Phindiwe Gwebu said:

“As the documentation comes in, our inspectors are actually sitting and reviewing. They have worked for two nights flat with no sleep just going through [the evidence] because we do understand the inconvenience this causes to the public because from our side it’s important that there is business continuity. Last night we dispatched a letter to [Comair] in terms of all the evidence they have submitted [but] unfortunately we had to ask for additional evidence.”

This then once again prompted Comair to submit additional documentation as continued efforts to resume operations as soon as possible. This might take longer than the airline would like, as SACAA is looking to review more than just the airline’s compliance, but also its quality control and safety management systems.

Comair is not pleased

Obviously, the change from a 24-hour suspension to an indefinite suspension is not the least bit pleasing to Comair, which has been in business rescue since May 2020. On the other hand, the airline has thus far not used its entitlement to appeal the precautionary suspension, as according to Gwebu who added that:

“They have a right to appeal, in fact they have several avenues that they can actually pursue. As of now I’m not aware that they have appealed the decision.”

Considering that this is the third time since 2007 that Comair has been grounded due to safety concerns, and factoring in the SACAA’s findings on technical problems within the past month alone – which ranges from engine failures, engine malfunctions, and landing gear malfunctions, amongst others, it probably does not come as a surprise as to why the airline is choosing to not appeal.

The financial difficulties and probable lack of manpower or lack of technician training could have led to these technical problems, all the more a reason for the airline to not be pleased with the suspension as time on the ground is money not made. If anything, the only thing that airline can probably do right now is to continue showing its compliance, and providing whatever information it is that the SACAA requires, as Gwebu mentioned:

“If they meet the requirements we will uplift the suspension. At the heart of our mandate is to ensure that everyone is safe including the crew itself.”

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