The South African Civil Aviation Authority (Sacaa) has temporarily halted passenger flights undertaken by 12 aircraft operated by CemAir.

The airline‚ based at OR Tambo International Airport‚ flies to Bloemfontein‚ George‚ Cape Town‚ Hoedspruit‚ Margate‚ Plettenberg Bay and Port Elizabeth.

"This withdrawal of the Certificate of Airworthiness privileges is precautionary and temporary‚ meaning that it will automatically expire after 24 hours at 5am on Saturday‚" the Sacaa said on Friday.

The authority said although this would cause disruptions for passengers‚ it was important to ensure the airline’s safety was beyond reproach.

The decision to halt flights was taken after aviation inspectors‚ during an audit‚ found that some of the aircraft serviced by the airline’s maintenance organisation were released back to service or cleared as airworthy by unqualified personnel. This is a contravention of the country’s aviation regulations.

"This practice poses an imminent danger for crew members‚ passengers‚ and the public at large‚ and has a direct impact on aviation safety‚ since the airworthiness status of the aircraft concerned cannot be confirmed or is questionable‚" said the Sacaa.

The airline was given an opportunity to submit proof that they comply with the regulations or explain why the aircraft should not be grounded.

"Thus far‚ the Sacaa has received full co-operation from CemAir and will continue to provide any assistance possible to the operator‚ and within the regulator’s mandate‚ to ensure that the matter is resolved as soon as possible."