Media snubbed in Nationwide fracas

The South African Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and Nationwide Airlines have agreed to a media blackout regarding the grounding of the carrier.

They said they would no longer make independent statements to the press, but would speak jointly on the process, it was announced on Tuesday.

This was ”to avoid causing confusion”, said CAA spokesperson Phindiwe Gwebu.

The CAA grounded Nationwide on Friday when it suspended its approval of the airline’s aircraft maintenance organisation (AMO) and suspended the certificates of airworthiness of Nationwide’s fleet of aircraft.

On Monday, acting commissioner for civil aviation Gawie Bestbier upheld the CAA move after considering an appeal by Nationwide.

He said he had given the carrier guidelines on how to meet the CAA’s requirements.

Gwebu said the CAA had met with the airline on Monday.

They were both ”going to try and resolve the matter as speedily as possible”.

He said the CAA was going to help the airline to comply with the requirements and would ”guide them through the process”.

The CAA said earlier that the problem was chiefly with the paperwork pertaining to the lifespan of certain aircraft parts.

CAA aircraft safety executive manager Obert Chakarisa said paperwork was a critical component of the administration of any airline.

The life of certain aircraft parts were limited and some had to be removed, or overhauled, or serviced at intervals.

If an airline was unable to gauge the lifespan of a part, it increased the risk of an accident.

The authority said it seen a ”systematic breakdown” at Nationwide.

The airline was grounded just weeks after an engine fell off a Nationwide 737-200 aircraft on take-off for Johannesburg from the Cape Town International Airport. The aircraft landed safely half-an-hour later.

The airline said the engine had sucked in ”an object” as the plane was taking off.

Following the incident, the CAA ordered a full inspection of all Boeing 737-200s.

Boeing 737-200s belonging to Comair, and SAA Cargo were later declared safe after engine-mount inspections.

The CAA said the grounding was not directly linked to this incident.

Meanwhile, the airline has had to cancel scores of local and international flights since Friday.

On Sunday, the airline’s chief executive officer Vernon Bricknell said he hoped Nationwide would be up and running again within a week.

At the time of their grounding, the company was operating about 50 to 55 flights a day, locally and internationally. — Sapa

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