CAA: Nationwide unlikely to fly to London

It was unlikely that grounded airline Nationwide would be given permission for take-off to London on Sunday night, said the South African Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

Inspectors had spent most of the day examining the Boeing 767 the airline intended using on the flight, said CAA aircraft safety executive manager Obert Chakarisa.

Of nine aircraft components examined, there were concerns about eight, he said.

”I don’t see this flight taking off tonight [Sunday] with the information I have so far,” Chakarisa said.

However, he said the CAA inspectors would make their final report on the aircraft telephonically at 5pm, and follow this up with a written report on Monday morning. They were still briefing him at 6pm.

Chakarisa said the inspection started at 8am on Sunday at OR Tambo International Airport, where the aircraft was physically located.

The inspection involved physical elements and documents.

He said the aircraft had not been leased after the grounding of the airline on Friday, but was among the original fleet whose airworthiness-certificates were suspended.

He confirmed that it was indeed a leased aircraft and that Dutch Airline KLM was responsible for major maintenance.

He pointed out, though, that the Nationwide airline maintenance organisation (AMO) — whose licence was also suspended on Friday — was responsible for the aircraft’s A-checks and pre-flight checks.

Nationwide has described the aircraft as its ”own” and said it was not leased from KLM, although major maintenance was performed by KLM in Amsterdam at prescribed intervals.

It said the full operational and service history of this aircraft was requested by and supplied to the CAA on Sunday.

This included a request to furnish the complete paper trail dating back to its manufacture and its history under its previous owners, Aeromexico and Air Canada.

”This information was supplied to the CAA today [Sunday], as it was in 2003, when the CAA inspected the aircraft in Montreal prior to its import to South Africa,” Nationwide said. ”At that time, the CAA gave the aircraft a clean bill of health under its process for placing the aircraft on the South African civil aircraft register.”

Nationwide said it continued to work around the clock to resolve the crisis, demonstrate its fitness and restore its normal services.

The airline has claimed that the CAA concerns that led to the grounding related mainly to the AMO’s administrative systems.

”The CAA has not raised any concerns that relate directly to any of our aircraft,” said CEO Vernon Bricknell.

However, Chakarisa said paperwork was a critical component of the administration of any airline.

He said certain aircraft parts were life-limited and had to be removed, or overhauled, or serviced at certain intervals.

If an airline was unable to tell what the life of a part was the chances of it over-running that life were high and the risk of an accident was therefore high.

He said Nationwide was, among other things, unable to indicate the life status of components on the leased Boeing 767.

The CAA could not take the risk of allowing its continued operation until this was possible.

”They are serious safety issues,” said Chakarisa.

He had taken ten phone calls from Nationwide on Sunday — five of them from Bricknell, he said.

He said the inspection of the Boeing 767 was conducted by the CAA’s manager of large airlines and its specialist in large airline operations.

Chakarisa himself was in the maintenance section on Sunday.

Nationwide had appealed against its grounding.

South Africa’s acting commissioner of civil aviation, Gawie Bestbier said on Sunday that the CAA had yet to present the case to him for assessment.

He said his role would be to determine whether the suspension could be lifted.

Nationwide hopes to be fully operational within a week, Bricknell said at a press conference in Morningside on Sunday.

He apologised for the inconvenience to the airline’s customers.

Nationwide had since opened a new department, with 12 employees, to upgrade its software and ensure everything within the airline met quality standards, he said. — Sapa

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