In a statement on Saturday, the SA Civil Aviation Authority (Sacaa) said SAA had shut down its operations in Blantyre, Malawi, following poor safety findings by Sacaa.
“In what the South African aviation regulator has described as a welcomed move and an expected response from a responsible operator that understands the importance of aviation safety, SAA has opted to cancel its operations into and from Blantyre,” said the authority.
A Level 1 finding can be described as a severe noncompliance that poses a serious safety risk and requires the licence holder to adequately address the findings, and failure of which necessitates immediate enforcement action by the regulator.
The Level 1 finding raised against the national carrier primarily related to the inadequacy of aviation infrastructure facilities and related emergency support services offered at Chileka International Airport, one of the two Malawian bases utilised by SAA.
“The Sacaa inspection exposed several non-compliances, some of which were cause for serious concern. The airport’s perimeter fence was vandalised and fell short of set international standards. Due to lack of maintenance, both the ambulance and fire engine were not dependable.
“This state of affairs may have catastrophic consequences for the airline’s passengers and crew in an event that one of their aircraft or surrounding facilities catches fire because as things stand, that would mean that emergency support services would not be instantly available as prescribed by civil aviation regulations world-wide.
“After receiving the inspection report, which also detailed the findings, SAA developed and submitted a corrective action plan (CAP) to Sacaa. Before Sacaa could complete the CAP review process, SAA informed the regulator of its intention to halt operations into and out of Blantyre.”
The cancellation of SAA’s Blantyre operations was effective from Saturday, 19 January, and would remain in place until such time that the findings raised by Sacaa had been adequately addressed and a follow-up inspection regarding the findings had been conducted.
“While the CAP submitted by SAA offered sufficient detail in terms of how the findings would be addressed, the decision to cease operations is most certainly a welcome move and depicts a determination by the operator to prioritise safety and compliance above anything else. This gesture was once the hallmark of the South African aviation industry and the bedrock of its remarkable safety record in scheduled commercial operations.
“It is Sacaa’s wish to witness the immediate restoration of this exemplary and mature approach to air transport services and the associated aviation safety and security.”