SACAA suspends SA Express certificate, grounds 9 aircraft

The decision means that the carrier may no longer operate with immediate effect. The SACAA says it found serious non-compliance of airline maintenance organisation which poses a serious safety risk.

FILE: A general view of an SA Express plane. Picture: Facebook.com.

PRETORIA - The South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) has suspended SA Express’s air operator’s certificate and grounded nine of the operator’s 21 aircraft.

The decision follows an audit of the airline and its maintenance organisation over the last few days and means that the carrier may no longer operate with immediate effect.

SA Express has recently been under the spotlight with Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan revealing on Thursday that the company was involved in a questionable deal with a Gupta-linked company.

The SACAA says it found serious non-compliance of airline maintenance organisation which poses a serious safety risk.

It says the airline could not ensure that operations requirements and safety obligations were met at all times.

While the authority did not disclose the exact nature of the non-compliance, it says five of the 17 findings amounted to severe non-compliance that poses a very serious safety or security risk to the public.

The authority says in order to start operating again, SA Express will have to re-apply for an air operating certificate, an approval for the aircraft maintenance organisation, as well as airworthy certificates of the grounded aircraft.

Two weeks ago, a flight from East London to Johannesburg was forced to return to the airport shortly after take-off due to an engine malfunction.

The operator will have to make an arrangement with the SACAA to fly all the affected aircraft back to its home base.

The authority says SA Express could not ensure that operational requirements and safety obligations were met at all times.

Of the 17 adverse findings against the carrier, five were of such a serious nature to warrant the immediate suspension of its operating licence.

Airline management could not be reached for comment.

(Edited by Winnie Theletsane)