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Pilot Associations Concerned About SAA’s Delay In Reporting Take-off Difficulty On Vaccine Flight

Workers offload boxes of AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccines as the country receives its first batch of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccines under COVAX scheme, at the international airtport of Accra, Ghana February 24, 2021. REUTERS/Francis Kokoroko

Pilot associations have raised concerns over SAA’s alleged failure to timeously report a take-off incident on a flight that was carrying Covid-19 vaccines from Brussels.

The flight reportedly ran into difficulty during take-off on 24 February. However, the incident was only reported to the SA Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) three weeks later.

Business Maverick reported that the airline’s crew allegedly miscalculated the take-off weight and the plane was in danger of stalling due to low airspeed. But the situation was averted when the aircraft’s safety system took over.

According to SACAA spokesperson Kabelo Ledwaba, regulations stipulate that all aviation accidents must be reported within 24 hours, serious incidents within 48 hours, and incidents within 72 hours.

“The said incident report was reported to the South African Civil Aviation Authority and the Accident and Incident Investigation Division (AIID) on the evening of 17 March 2021,” Ledwaba told NewsofAfrica.

Pilot unions have also questioned the process SAA followed.

Air Line Pilots’ Association SA president Carl Bollweg found it concerning that the incident had not been reported on time.

“It’s human to make mistakes, but when we make an error, one should own up to it. That is why we have a ‘just culture’. The regulations say the incident must be reported within 24 hours, so it’s concerning that it wasn’t” he said.

Bollweg added that he couldn’t comment on why the flight still took off and questioned why the regulator would have waived certain issues to allow the flight to proceed.

SAA Pilots’ Association chairperson Grant Back said the association was “aware of the automated report by the aircraft-monitoring software” during the take-off phase of the flight.

“We have written to SAA management and the business rescue practitioners raising our concerns as to the state of SAA’s safety management system and asking that the CAA-approved processes be followed in order to establish what occurred. We have not received a response and hope that the correct policy and procedures will be followed in the investigation of this safety event,” he said.

Meanwhile, the DA has called for a probe into incident. The party wants an independent body to carry out the investigation, claiming the SA Civil Aviation Authority is under the influence of SAA.

SAA has not provided any comment at the time of publication.



Written by PH

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