South African regional airline CemAir is hoping to resume operations after an appeal committee overturned the South African CAA’s (SACAA) decision to ground the airline twice in two months.
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.
Johannesburg-based CemAir strongly rejected the accusations and won a high-court appeal to get the suspension lifted. However, in January 2019, the SACAA grounded CemAir for a second time, claiming the airline had failed to prove the airworthiness of its fleet.
Following a five-day hearing, a Civil Aviation Appeal Committee (CAAC) overturned both groundings on April 29, describing them as “irrational, arbitrary, unreasonable and procedurally unfair.”
CemAir celebrated the “landslide victory,” but added that its AOC expired during the four-month appeal, meaning it cannot resume operations “just yet.”
Responding to the ruling May 3, the SACAA said: “The implications of the tribunal’s decision is that CemAir is still not permitted to operate as an airline or utilize any of its aircraft commercially, pending the renewal audit process being finalized, and the operator being issued with the relevant operating certificates or approvals.”
SACAA director of civil aviation Poppy Khoza said CemAir still needs to pass its annual AOC renewal audit for the period ending January 2020. “The SACAA is very keen to see the airline back in the air and as soon as practically possible, and hence the necessary arrangements have been made to ensure that its inspectorate can instantly start auditing the airline,” she said.
However, in a statement issued May 13, CemAir said the AOC renewal has reached “an impasse,” because the CAA intends to assign the same inspectors whose actions were criticized in the CAAC judgment.
“We expect the board of the CAA to suspend all involved, pending the outcome of an impartial investigation into the matter. It is in the interest of the flying public and South Africa at large that the CAA effectively and efficiently implement objective global aviation safety standards. We further call on the minister of transport to launch an investigation into the matter,” CemAir said.
The airline said the two groundings resulted in hundreds of job losses and an “inestimably large” impact on the South African economy.
“CemAir remains a committed aviation partner and we look forward to emerging from this difficult time as a stronger organization,” CemAir said.