Fourteen SA Airlink aircraft grounded

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Pretoria - The South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) has suspended the certificates of airworthiness for 14 SA Airlink Jetstream aircraft.

The aircraft were grounded with effect from Wednesday.

"The suspension has resulted in these aircraft being grounded until the SACAA has re-certified each and every Jetstream aircraft before any further flight," said SACAA spokesperson Kabelo Ledwaba.

The regulator took the decision after instituting an audit of the carrier after a series of accidents in the last three months. The audit involved looking into flight operations, pilot training and aircraft maintenance procedures.

Three observations pertaining to flight operations and 12 findings in the maintenance domain were made and SA Airlink produced a corrective action plan which the SACAA reviewed and accepted as being sufficient to address the findings if implemented fully.

The plan is expected to be fully implemented by the end of January 2010.

However, SACAA pointed out that though it had accepted the plan; questions still remained with regard to the airworthiness of the fleet resulting in the inspection of the aircraft.

"The SACAA resolved that the safety and airworthiness of the SA Airlink Jetstream aircraft fleet could no longer be guaranteed," it said.

On Wednesday, SA Airlink experienced another incident in Nelspruit. The incident resulted in the aircraft aborting take-off due to low oil pressure and smoke coming out of the left-hand engine.

The incident was similar to another in Durban in September which resulted in a fatality.

The regulator said it was important to note that only 14 of the carrier's fleet of aircraft had been grounded and that other types of aircraft would continue operating along their allocated routes.

"Whilst this decision taken by the SACAA may appear drastic and would indeed inconvenience SA Airlink passengers, which is regrettable, the matters of aviation safety and security are so crucial that they should not be compromised in anyway," said Ledwaba.

SA Airlink Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, Rodger Foster, apologised to its customers for the inconvenience the grounding may cause over the next few days.

"After consulting with the SACAA, we decided to immediately ground our entire Jetstream 41 fleet of turbo-prop aircraft," he said.

Commenting on the incident in Mpumalanga, Foster said that while Airlink's crews are trained to deal with engine failures on take-off, SA Airlink shared the SACAA's view that in light of two such failures in several weeks, that this represents as an unnecessary and unacceptable risk.

"The Jetstream 41s will remain grounded until Honeywell and the aircraft manufacturer, BAE Systems, have identified and implemented a remedy," said Foster.

He urged passengers to call the airline on 011 451 73 50 to verify their flight details.

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