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Wednesday, 20 August 2008

SAA shortage ups accident fears

from News24
Aug 18 2008 3:38PM
Jan de Lange

Johannesburg - A skills shortage at SAA Technical, which for decades was one of the most outstanding technical centres in Africa, has increased to the extent that its aviation safety standards have been brought into question.

The US' Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the South African Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) silently warned SAA about the issue in February and March this year.

Its technical division has not met the skills prerequisites for the maintenance work on the passenger jets that it is responsible for.

Last week, two former senior managers at SAA Technical's two most strategic workshops told Sake24 that they resigned following decades of service as they could no longer "live with their consciences".

The decline in technical standards owing to the shortage of trained staff had become "too serious" for them.

According to CAA CEO Colin Jordaan, the FAA and CAA's warnings resulted in SAA giving an undertaking that it will embark on an intensive drive to find technicians.

"SAA undertook to rather outsource work than compromise safety," said Jordaan.

Since then, however, standards have worsened rather than improved.

For the first time ever, SAA in June outsourced maintenance work on an Airbus A340-200 to Taeco, a company based in Xiamen on the east coast of China.

The aircraft returned to South Africa two weeks ago with 41 maintenance points which Taeco could not repair.

One of these was a rusted cross-beam on the aircraft frame under the kitchen and toilet passages.

Deon Wessels, a former manager of non-destructive inspections (NDI), resigned in November last year as he felt he could no longer be held accountable for the work done by that division.

SAA Technical is expected to have 19 senior NDI inspectors on its staff but currently, there are only six.

Of these, only three have the minimum requirement of six years practical experience, although all six passed their theoretical courses.

"An aircraft will fall owing to this. I guarantee this," Wessels told Sake24 last week."

He was previously the most experienced and most highly qualified NDI inspector at SAA Technical and worked for the airline for 26 years.


Anonymous said...

Back in '96 I remember South Africa alone reported more than 400 air incidents alone, and this was when things were still 'ok'. We all knew this was coming with the dismantling of SAA over the years. I think it is clear that forcing people out because of the colour of their skin is no better than how things were in the previous regime. It is heartbreaking to see another great South African product go by the wayside. Sometimes it takes time and transition to achieve a state of full equality. One thing we know for sure, changing it overnight as it has been done, is a recipe for failure.

Anonymous said...

wow this is disturbing. once a wonderful airline, now turning into a flying death trap like all the rest of Africa's airlines for the most part....