Neels Blom Writer at large
Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Regional carrier CemAir has apologised to its customers for the disruption of its services following a temporary grounding order imposed by the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) last week.

Cemair flies from OR Tambo International airport to seven destinations in SA. It operates 12 small jet and turbo-jet aircraft for scheduled and chartered flights. All its aircraft have been affected, including regional flights outside SA.

The authority said last week that some of CemAir’s aircraft serviced by the carrier’s maintenance unit had been declared airworthy by "unqualified" personnel, and that if the airworthiness of the aircraft cannot be confirmed this posed "an imminent danger".

But a CemAir spokesperson said on Thursday that it was not correct to say the personnel working on the aircraft were unqualified.

"All personnel working on our aircraft are highly qualified. The problem was that the personnel who had signed off on the aircraft were not internally authorised by CemAir to do so. It does not mean they were not qualified. These people have been suspended while our investigation is going on," the spokesperson said.

SACAA has confirmed that they received CemAir’s full co-operation.

CemAir CEO Miles van der Molen said he wanted to thank the carrier’s customers for their patience and loyalty. "I am sorry we have let you down during this period, but we look forward to flying you again very soon.

"As the first step, last Friday, we initiated a thorough and comprehensive assessment and verification of internal processes and procedures at our aircraft maintenance division. The scope of this exercise includes personnel training, licensing and powers of authority to release aircraft and components into service. In parallel, we have provided the SACAA with full and comprehensive documentation packs relating to the history and status of each of our 12 South African-registered aircraft."

CemAir said it was trying to reach as many of its customers as possible to arrange rebooking of flights or refunding.