The South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) has grounded regional carrier CemAir for the second time in two months for what it says is the airline’s failure to provide proof of the airworthiness of its fleet.

The SACAA suspended CemAir’s Part 121 and 135 air operator's certificates (AOCs) in December 2018 and recommended revoking them completely over what it described as Level One infractions that posed a serious safety risk to the public.

CemAir strongly rejected the accusations and succeeded in a Dec. 18 appeal to the country’s High Court in having the suspensions lifted.

However, after close of business Jan. 11, the SACAA issued a statement saying it had again suspended CemAir’s AOCs.

It said the suspension was “necessitated by the SACAA’s concerns over the systemic failure of the airline’s maintenance controls. In a nutshell, the most recent annual renewal audit revealed CemAir’s inability to prove the continued airworthiness of its fleet.”

In a lengthy statement, the SACAA said it did not normally provide a chronological account of events leading to its oversight decisions. “However, given several previous records with alternative information, on this occasion, the SACAA will reluctantly provide a synopsis of events leading to this decision, lest an inaccurate version miraculously emerges.”

It alleged that, following the lifting of the initial suspension, the renewal audit of CemAir’s operations was conducted between Dec. 21-24. This revealed 11 findings, of which five were classified as Level One. 

The airline duly submitted “an acceptable Corrective Action Plan (CAP) for 10 of these. However, the CAP failed to address the remaining Level One finding had been unacceptable, despite several revisions, the regulator said.

“On 26 December 2018 the SACAA, and in the interests of aviation safety, grounded eight of the airline’s aircraft with immediate effect. Between 28 December 2018 and 11 January 2019 there were numerous interactions between the operator and the regulator. In between, the SACAA also visited CemAir operations in order to gather evidence and confirm that the continued airworthiness finding is addressed satisfactorily. These follow-up inspection exercises did not meet the regulators’ expectations and the necessary evidence could not be produced by the operator.” 

It added that during the audit, “the SACAA also learned that an aircraft manufacturer had given CemAir an assessment of their aircraft maintenance schedule with findings and recommendations on what the operator needed to do in order to get the maintenance status of their fleet on track, and worryingly the operator could not produce sufficient evidence to authenticate that all recommendations were fully implemented. Based on the renewal audit findings and the subsequent confirmation of the systemic maintenance failure, it became evident … that CemAir is simply unable to prove the continued airworthiness of its entire fleet.”

It added that CemAir could appeal its decision to the country’s Director of Civil Aviation.

Attempts to contact CemAir after working hours by phone and email were unsuccessful.

Alan Dron