Picture: THE TIMES
Picture: THE TIMES

In aviation-speak, the term "hot seat" is 1950s slang for the rocket-propelled ejection seats fitted to fighter jets.

So it has proved for the various CEOs who, over the years, have come to "save" troubled SAA.

They climb into the cockpit with much Top Gun fervour, hit the afterburners and roar off into the sky …

Then bang! And there they come floating back to earth on (sometimes) a golden parachute, while their aircraft plummets to the ground in flames, again.

It seems the SAA Pilots’ Association (Saapa) has had enough. Last week, in a fit of apoplexy, the union threatened to embark on a strike, the first in its 80-year history.

One wonders why it has suddenly found its voice now and not, say, during the Dudu Myeni or Coleman Andrews years.

Still, Saapa has joined the airline’s other unions, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA and the SA Cabin Crew Association, in demanding that SAA’s board be fired.

Given their various agendas, this may turn out to be one of those rare occasions in which the three unions are on the same plane, so to speak.

The appointment of Zuks Ramasia as interim CEO seems to have been the final straw for Saapa, which says it wants someone with "the appropriate experience and financial acumen to successfully run a major airline".

Ramasia has worked her way up through the ranks and was once GM of operations, but even that seems to leave Saapa cold.

The real problem for anyone who gets the hot seat at SAA is that it is unfixable without extensive restructuring, which means job losses in the thousands.

"Eject! Eject! Eject!"