SA ranks number 1 in Africa for safety systems in aviation

Tuesday, March 5, 2024

The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has rated South Africa’s safety oversight system at 91.11% thereby placing it at number one in Africa and number 18 in the world, alongside Norway.

Addressing a media briefing on the state of the aviation sector on Tuesday, Minister of Transport Sindisiwe Chikunga said the ICAO also did not raise any significant safety and security concerns in both the safety and security audits, which happened within eight months of each other. 

In the past two to three years, South Africa has participated in four key international safety and security audits and assessments by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), and the United States safety and security regulators namely, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as well as the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

“I am elated to announce that South Africa performed very well in all these audits and assessments. The US-Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recognised South Africa's safety oversight system as meeting ICAO’s safety standards and recommended practices and therefore confirmed that South Africa retains its Category 1 status with the standards of the United States International Oversight Safety Audit (IOSA) Programme. 

“The Transport Security Administration granted South Africa’s cargo security system permanent recognition following an assessment of the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA).  South Africa still holds the European Union (EU) recognition for the States cargo security system,” Chikunga said in Pretoria.

The Minister said these outcomes do not only validate the quality of South Africa’s global aviation footprint, but it also confirms that South Africa's systems are competing favourably with the best in the world of aviation.

“South Africa is proud of the continued 0% fatal accident rate held in the commercial airlines sector for nearly four decades. Our target is to maintain this record for decades to come. One of the current administration’s strategic targets is to reduce accidents in the general aviation sector by 50%. 

“At the end of the previous 2022/23 financial year, the number of accidents had decreased from 147 to 113 accidents, which translated into a 23% decrease from the 2021/22 period. The fatal accidents decreased from 12 to 9 fatal accidents, translating into a 25% decrease with the number of fatalities decreasing by 29.4%,” the Minister said.

During the 2021/22 period at the height of COVID-19, South Africa recorded a spike in accidents in a non-scheduled private flying space. This has been attributed to pilots being “out of practice” caused by a lack of refresher training during the hard lock down periods of the pandemic.

“As we head towards closing off this 2023/24 financial year, we have recorded 97 accidents to date. While we are projecting these numbers to marginally be lower than the previous reporting period, the number of fatal accidents has increased to 13, which is four more than data from the 2022/23 financial year.

“To curb these accidents which happen in a non-scheduled private flying space, the SACAA has developed and implemented a General Aviation Safety Strategy in consultation with the industry where we are employing reputable safety strategies to attain a reduction in both categories - accidents and fatalities,” she said.

SACAA has been on an automation journey migrating their internal business processes to ensure a paperless entity. 

In the last year, the regulator has launched an eServices portal where operators can submit their certificate renewal applications online and also pay online. 

“In August 2022, the South African National Blood Services was licensed to deliver blood and essential medical samples, using drones in what became a ground-breaking achievement for the country. The value of this initiative is understated, more so when we consider that 32% of South Africans live in rural, and in most cases, hard-to-reach destinations.

“Blood delivery to local clinics that may not be accessible by road transport is now possible and has now been made easier and much faster to access. This is an innovative step in the history of blood transportation. Every second you gain in saving a life is critical,” the Minister said.

International Air Service Licensing

As of 1 February 2024, the regulator is administering the domestic and international air service licensing councils.

“This means that all administrative support will include developing effective systems that will enable the smooth processing of air service license applications and Foreign Operator Permits (FOPs) and includes the issuance and storage of related information thereof.

“The Department of Transport will still be responsible for the budget allocation to the respective Councils for each financial year, and such allocation shall be used towards the activities and functions of the Councils,” the Minister said.

Since this decision took effect from 1 February 2024, SACAA launched an automated system, which is done in a phased approach.

“The first phase, which commenced from 01 February, saw the processing of foreign operators permits through a newly developed system. The next phase, which is currently in progress, is to automate the submission and processing of domestic and international air service licences. In the interim, the SACAA has given clarity to the industry in how the applications for air service licence will be processed until automation is implemented,” Chikunga said. –