Call for return of Aviation Amendment Act from Ramaphosa – Chris Hunsinger

DA MP says accountability and adherence to regulations cannot be applied selectively in the industry

DA requests return of Aviation Amendment Act from President Ramaphosa

11 March 2022

The DA will write to President Cyril Ramaphosa to request the return of the Civil Aviation Act Amendment Bill, which has been submitted for his enactment.

The DA believes particular conditions of this Bill need revision, following the tabling of the report from the Ethiopian Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau’s (AAIB) investigation into the crash of the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) aircraft, Cessna S550 ZS-CAR, tasked to carry out a calibration flight at the George Aerodome on 23 January 2020, before the parliamentary portfolio committee on transport. All three flight crew members died in the crash.

The report was partially released online in January. It is the same partial report – page 56, which contains paragraphs 19 to 30 of the conclusions, is still missing – that has now been tabled before Parliament.

The DA has proposed, and the committee has agreed, to summons the previous Head of Aircraft Investigation, Peter Mashaba, to appear before the committee and give evidence on the investigation.

According to the Deputy Minister for Transport, Sindiswe Chikunga, the missing paragraphs has never been submitted. What has, however, always been clear from the report we have is that the Cessna S550 ZS-CAR aircraft had a host of irregularities, and should never have been allowed to take flight.

The decision to use the aircraft was irresponsible, negligent, and there was a clear disregard for the rules and regulations meant to keep flight crew safe. It also shows that SACAA seems to believe they are above the rules, regulations and standards they are meant to monitor and enforce.

The following amendments to the Bill are of huge concern to the DA and the aviation industry at large:

The Aviation Safety Investigation Board must not apportion blame or liability in any report following the investigation of an aircraft accident or incident, and the sole objective of the investigation is accident prevention.

In making its findings as to the causes and contributing factors of an aircraft accident and incident, it is not the function of the Aviation Safety Investigation Board to assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability, but the Aviation Safety Investigation Board must not refrain from fully reporting on the causes and contributing factors merely because fault or liability might be inferred from the Aviation Safety Investigation Board’s findings.

No finding of the Aviation Safety Investigation Board must be construed as apportioning blame or determining civil or criminal liability.

The findings of, or the evidence before, the Aviation Safety Investigation Board are not binding on the parties to any legal, disciplinary or any other proceedings and may not be used in any civil, criminal or disciplinary proceedings against persons giving such evidence.

The crash of Cessna S550 ZS-CAR seriously damaged the reputation and credibility of SACAA, and in the DA’s opinion conditions like the above limit the independence of investigations. An investigations authority cannot merely be restricted to an administrative process.

Safety in the aviation sector is of utmost importance to the DA. Accountability and adherence to regulations cannot be applied selectively – neither should measures be allowed which selectively share cause and negligence. The DA will uphold these principles.

Issued by Chris Hunsinger, DA Shadow Minister of Transport, 11 March 2022