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Nationwide aircraft grounded indefinitely

Sapa and M&G Online reporters, Boyd Webb and agencies

Nationwide's aircraft will remain grounded until the airline has fixed deficiencies in its maintenance section, the South African Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said on Friday. The CAA suspended approval for the airline's aircraft maintenance organisation from midnight on Thursday, said CAA chief executive officer Zakes Myeza.

Nationwide’s aircraft will remain grounded until the airline has fixed deficiencies in its maintenance section, the South African Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said on Friday.

The CAA suspended approval for the airline’s aircraft maintenance organisation from midnight on Thursday, said CAA chief executive officer Zakes Myeza.

It had also suspended the certificates of airworthiness of Nationwide’s fleet of 16 aircraft—twelve 737—200s, five 727s and one 767.

If the airline did not comply, its licence would be revoked altogether.

“It was unavoidable,” said Myeza.

He said the suspension arose from the airline’s failure to comply with an airworthiness directorate issued in September and subsequent audits of its compliance.

“We cannot afford to be reckless on this because we are dealing with human lives,” said CAA executive legal manager Ntheri Magoai.

This was not the first time the CAA has grounded an airline, said CAA aircraft safety executive manager Obert Chakarisa.

It had already grounded the airline maintenance organisations of the smaller airlines Nel Air and Executive Aerospace. Chakarisa said the CAA would be suspending two more in the next week, but he would not identify them.

They were also smaller airlines.

Nationwide was notified by fax late on Thursday night that the CAA had revoked its aviation maintenance organisation licence, said the airline’s sales and marketing manager Charmaine Thome.

‘Indefinitely delayed’

Meanwhile, the airline threatened to call the police if passengers did not keep quiet, a traveller told the South African Press Association on Friday.

A passenger named Riekie, who was reluctant to supply her surname, said that her 7.40am flight had not left by 10am. She said that the announcement board showed flights as late as 12.20pm as “indefinitely delayed”.

“I had to pay again to arrange a flight for tomorrow [Saturday]. When I asked for my money back [for the first flight] the person at the desk told me to be quiet or she would call the police,” said an angry Riekie.

“I already paid for this flight in August.”

“Nationwide gave no explanation for the delays and other airlines did not want to exchange Nationwide tickets for one of their flights,” she said.

“We received no answer from Nationwide offices when we phoned to query the delay,” Riekie said.

Assistance

Comair announced in a statement that it would be assisting Nationwide’s stranded customers if it was operationally possible.

Customers would be accommodated on a standby basis, subject to availability, on both British Airways and kulula.com flights, as long as they had their tickets endorsed by Nationwide. The onus was on the customers and travel agents to ensure that this important step had been completed, Comair said.

Comair spokesperson Stuart Cochrane said, “With the advent of school holidays and the festive season, our flights are already operating at high load factors and we will try and assist these displaced customers wherever possible. We are in the process of assessing the operational logistics of scheduling additional flights later this afternoon and into the weekend.” - Sapa, Reuters, I-Net Bridge

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