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CANCELLED FLIGHTS

Grounded: SA Civil Aviation Authority suspends Comair operations indefinitely

Grounded: SA Civil Aviation Authority suspends Comair operations indefinitely
Kulula and Comair flights have been suspended due to safety concerns (Photo: Flickr / Alan Wilson)

Comair, which operates Kulula and British Airways aviation business in South Africa, has had its air operator certificate suspended indefinitely after it failed to adequately demonstrate to the South African Civil Aviation Authority that their risk and safety management systems are up to scratch.

You’re unlikely to see the green and white colours of a Kulula plane over the skies of South Africa any time soon. This after the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) on Sunday confirmed the indefinite suspension of Comair’s air operator certificate. 

The news follows the announcement on Saturday that Comair – which operates Kulula and British Airways flights in the country – had its air operator certificate temporarily suspended. In a statement, the SACAA said that the decision was reached “following an investigation into the recent spate of safety incidents at the Operator.”

“Just in the past month, Comair operations experienced occurrences ranging from engine failures, engine malfunction and landing gear malfunctions, among others,” they said. 

In its statement, SACAA noted that the precautionary suspension would be for a period of 24 hours, “within which the Operator must demonstrate to the Regulator that the risk and safety management systems are effective in managing potential hazards.”

In response to the temporary suspension, Comair indicated its intention to resume operations by noon on Sunday. 

Comair CEO Glenn Orsmond said “we are doing everything possible to get the suspension lifted. We continue to engage constructively with the SACAA and are working hard to provide the SACAA with the additional information it requires.”

In response to SACAA’s announcement on Sunday, Comair said that they are “unable to confirm when it will start flying again” and that the airline is continuing to engage the SACAA in a bid to get the suspension lifted but has been forced to cancel flights indefinitely.

Orsmond, in a statement, said “this is a huge blow to our customers, employees and the flying public as it effectively takes 40% of the capacity out of the market. The implications for the aviation sector and the country are considerable should the suspension continue for any length of time.”

“Our priority now is to assist passengers who have been stranded. We have chartered two aircraft to assist vulnerable passengers and those who most urgently need to travel.”

SACAA previously explained that its investigations into Comair yielded three Level 1 findings, and one Level 2 finding. A Level 1 finding is something that poses an immediate risk and must be resolved immediately. The SACAA explained that by Sunday morning, “the Regulator accepted the corrective action and evidence submitted in respect of one Level 1 finding.”

In their statement, the SACAA said that it is “fully committed to ensuring that the Operator is back in the air and has dedicated a full team to assess and review the evidence as it gets submitted. The commitment to safety, in this case, supersedes any other need and this is to ensure that South Africa maintains its safety record of having ZERO fatal airline accidents in over thirty years on South African soil.” DM

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