Minister backs grounding of Airlink planes

Transport Minister Sbu Ndebele has patted the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) warmly on the head for the swift action it took to ground the Jetstream fleet of Airlink, the state-owned feeder airline.

“We must express our grave disappointment at the latest incident involving Airlink,” he said in Durban on Thursday, a day after a plane had to abort its take-off in Nelspruit on Wednesday morning.

“We also note with regret that this incident is similar in nature to the one that occurred in Durban in September 2009, resulting in one fatality.
We, however, applaud and support unreservedly the swift action of the CAA and its conclusion that the safety and airworthiness of Airlink Jetstream aircraft fleet could no longer be guaranteed.

“We will not allow the operations of any airline in our airspace to place in danger the lives of our people. When and where we find these near misses, it is our responsibility to act swiftly and to act in concert to safeguard the safety of our commuters and all stakeholders. Nothing can be more valuable than the life of a human being.”

The minister added that the rest of Airlink’s fleet—BAE 146 and Embraer 135 aircraft (a total of nine planes)—may still operate, but the 14 Jetstream planes may not fly again until the CAA has re-certified each one.

He repeated that the commercial airline industry in South Africa ranks among the safest in the world, and will not allow these standards to drop. Instead, he wanted other sectors and modes of transport such as rail and road to emulate these standards as the country heads for 2010, the 2010 Soccer World Cup and beyond

“As the Department of Transport, we will not stand guard at the gates of hell as a bonfire is brewed for the unnecessary sacrifice of our people. This is our commitment to South Africa; this is our earthly covenant with all users of our airspace,” Ndebele said.—I-Net Bridge, Sapa

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