UPDATE: CemAir resumes services, called to address concerns of 'overloading'

2018-12-19 10:49
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Passengers expecting to fly with CemAir over the holiday period can breathe a sigh of relief, as the airline has been granted permission to resume services, subject to fulfilling the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) safety requirements for its operating licence.

Travellers were left stranded for several days after the SACAA suspended CemAir on 13 December, due to non-compliance of safety specifications related to both its small and large aircraft. The qualifications of the airline's flight operations manager were also called into question, with the recent audit bringing to light issues around weight and balance of the airline's planes.

READ: CemAir grounded by SACAA

Despite a settlement being reached out of court, with a temporary lifting of the SACAA suspension, the airline is subject to specific conditions related to an acceptable corrective action plan and certain conditions need to be met by Wednesday, 19 December.

Added to that, the SACAA will continue with its full audit of the airline.

Key to the corrective plan is the issue of undeclared hand luggage, says SACAA CEO Phindiwe Gwebu.

"Our technical specifications allow for 6kgs to be deducted for every person not carrying hand luggage, however this cannot be done for every passenger, which is currently happening," says Gwebu.

"CemAir needs to develop a procedure that also takes into account undeclared hand luggage, as some of CemAir's aircraft do not have onboard storage cabins."

Gwebu says the regulator would like CemAir to comply with proper 'empty weight' regulations, saying despite changes to the aircraft since receiving it from the manufacturer, "CemAir is altering the empty weight themselves" and it is "not reflecting in according with its certificate".

Airlines are expected to have their aircraft weighed and changes in weight checked in accordance with alterations by an expert in order to have a true empty weight reflection. This needs to happen at least every five years, says Gwebu.

"It is incorrect for the airline to misrepresent facts and create the impression that the issue of the weight and balance, even though very crucial, was the only key cause of the suspension. It is important to note that matters of civil aviation safety and security are very serious and what may seem like administrative decisions in other industries may lead to loss of life in the aviation industry." 

As part of finalising the audit, the SACAA says it will review and consider all compliance matters including the status of post-holders such as the Responsible Person: Flight Operations. 

CemAir CEO Miles van der Molen is no stranger to controversy, with a list of alleged fraudulent documents and fatal accidents linked to airlines previously under his watch. This includes an incident in 1999 when a Flight Line chartered aircraft crashed after take-off from Rand Airport in Germiston, killing 9 people on board.

AeroSpace Africa reports the inquest into the incident "found incorrect documentation was submitted related to the amount of weight the plane could carry, with findings showing the aircraft was overweight by an estimated 360kg".

News24 tried to contact Van der Molen directly, as well as the airline call centre, but has yet to receive a response. 

According to the aviation safety regulator CemAir needs to address the following, as part of the temporary lifting of the suspension:

a) To develop a procedure for monitoring and accounting for undeclared hand luggage and submit it to the SACAA for approval on 19 December 2018.

b) To immediately comply with the weight and balance requirements.

c) Furthermore, the airline has been ordered to stop deducting kilogram allowances from passengers until a weight plan is approved by the SACAA.