SAA suspends cargo flights due to non-compliance

Traffic Collision Avoidance System updates outstanding.
Nine SAA Cargo aircraft have been withdrawn after the airline failed to install updates on its Traffic Collision Avoidance Systems (TCAS). Picture: Shutterstock

South African Airways (SAA) confirmed late last night that it has suspended its freighter aircraft services due to non-compliance with “mandatory maintenance action”.

According to the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) SAA withdrew nine aircraft after it failed to install updates on its Traffic Collision Avoidance Systems (TCAS).

SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali told Moneyweb the airline is waiting for special tooling from America. It was dispatched on Wednesday night and would arrive in South Africa in the next 24 hours.

“We have ordered the special tooling, software loader and software verification tool from the United States of America,” he said.

Moneyweb learnt about SAA’s self-imposed suspension of cargo flights after SAA Cargo notified customers in a letter on Tuesday that SAA Cargo Freighters “are not able to operate until further notice”.

According to the letter SAA Cargo would not accept any freight cargo bookings until the regulatory issue has been resolved.

It stated that freighter routes to Kenya (Nairobi), Tanzania (Dar Es Salaam), Uganda (Entebbe), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Kinshasha), Zambia (Lusaka), Zimbabwe (Harare), Malawi (Blantyre), Mozambique (Maputu), Nambia (Windhoek) and Mauritius (Port Louis) were cancelled with immediate effect.

According to the SACAA all operators were granted exemption from complying with requirements for turbo engine aircraft (with a maximum take-off mass in excess of 15 000kg or that are authorised to carry more than 30 passengers,) that they be fitted with a specified  airborne collision avoidance system (ACAS). This was due to the non-availability of the necessary products or equipment.

The exemption was granted in July last year and expired on January 10 this year.

SAA applied for an extension of the exemption, but the application was “unsatisfactory” and the SACAA turned it down.

“Our understanding is that the operator, and rightfully so, elected to withdraw the affected aircraft from service. As such, this is a self-imposed withdrawal of aircraft from service, which the SACAA supports, and it demonstrates the operator’s willingness to comply with civil aviation regulations,” the SACAA told Moneyweb.

SAA on Wednesday submitted a revised application which the SACAA is reviewing urgently.

According to Tlali SAA informed its customers immediately after it became clear that it would have to withdraw the aircraft from service. “We decided to move as much of the cargo as we can on our passenger airline flights. Where necessary and feasible we have also made arrangements to move the cargo on the services of other airlines.”   

He said on Tuesday and Wednesday two domestic coastal routes covering Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, East London and Durban as well as four regional flights were affected.

SAA does not expect substantial claims from customers as a result of the suspension. Tlali said. “We communicated with our customers and made alternative arrangements to move the cargo. We minimised the amount of cargo that has not been delivered as per promise to our customers,” he said.

It is difficult to estimate the financial loss to SAA at this stage, he said. “Having advised customers not to tender certain types of cargo to us until this matter is resolved it is not possible to know how much cargo would have been tendered, and depending on how quickly the service is restored, we may still be able to move most of the cargo that the customers have held back. We will also put [in place] additional rotations if necessary to deal with customer backlogs.”

SACAA explains what the required TCAS II version 7.1 is:

“TCAS is a family of airborne devices that function independently of the ground-based air traffic control (ATC) system, and provide collision avoidance protection for a broad spectrum of aircraft types. All TCAS systems provide various forms of collision threat alerting, and a traffic display. The difference between TCAS I and II is the alerting capability. TCAS I provides traffic advisories to assist the pilot in the visual acquisition of intruder aircraft.  TCAS II provides traffic advisories and recommended escape manoeuvres, to increase separation between aircraft.”

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Wore and worse.

SA still a way to go before SA reaches rock bottom and other than blather, nothing really in sight to change this.

Chilling.

“The exemption was granted in July last year and expired on January 10 this year.

SAA applied for an extension of the exemption, but the application was “unsatisfactory” and the SACAA turned it down.”

LOL – SO THESE GUYS HAVE ACTUALLY BEEN CONDUCTING FLIGHT OPERATIONS WITHOUT APPROVALS FOR OVER A MONTH!!! – and this is described as voluntary!!!!!

“Two SAA cargo planes collided in mid-air and crashed into a village. One plane carried a cargo of Viagra and the other plane had a cargo of medical marijuana. The whole village is destroyed but everybody is smiling and they seem to be extraordinarily happy”.

….*lol*….killed by a falling Viagra pallet!

(…and if the Marijuana pallet breaks open mid-air thousands of feet up…the whole region will be sowed & blessed by seeds) 😉

…meanwhile inside one of the SAA Technical workshops:

Manager to technician:

“Heyta, why have you disconnected all the TCAS Traffic Avoidance modules in our planes?!”

Worker’s response:

“Boss, you think we are all stupid né? Rememba, we fly ABOVE the traffic…”

No wonder SAA is not making money.
The new CEO from Vodacom is not up to speed yet, shame man selling airtime is easy.
Time to FIRE the idiots in charge.

If SAA has known since July’17 that this system is mandatory, and a flight safety feature for that matter, that they are comfortable with requesting its exemption speaks volumes for their respect for their business principals.

SAA got deferments that lasted months due to “non-availability of products or equipment”, but when they were banned from flying, they could suddenly get the tooling in 24 hours.

A signal that certain people within the airline don’t take safety seriously anymore?

End of comments.

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