/ 17 April 2023

Confirmed: South African aviation is among the best in the world!

Director Of Civil Aviation, Poppy Khoza
The Director of Civil Aviation, Poppy Khoza

How safe is our country’s state of aviation?

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) earlier this month confirmed that the South African skies are the safest on the continent and among the leading top 20 countries in the world.

The ICAO, a specialised agency of the United Nations that promotes the safe and orderly development of civil aviation across the world, was in the country earlier this month to conduct an audit on the state of civil aviation in South Africa, and at the conclusion of the audit they shared the preliminary results of their findings.

They concluded an intensive two-week audit process where South Africa received an overwhelming Effective Implementation (EI) score of around 92% – a significant improvement from the 87.39% that ICAO gave the country in a previous audit conducted over five years ago. The final outcome is awaited by the end of September 2023. 

As signatories to the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation and a Member State of the ICAO since 1944, our country is obligated to continuously comply with prescribed international civil aviation Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs). 

Through this audit programme, ICAO monitors the fulfilment of the obligations by its Member States in terms of compliance to the safety oversight system implemented in their respective jurisdictions. It also assesses the effective and consistent implementation of international standards and recommended practices. 

The South African government, through the Department of Transport, mandated the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) to regulate civil aviation in the country hence the SACAA leads the auditing process on behalf of the State. ICAO selects and visits a selected group of industry operators to verify the effective oversight of the Regulator on the industry. The operators in this audit included airports, design organisations, aircraft maintenance organisations, designated medical examiners, airlines, training organisations and the air navigation service provider. 

The Director of Civil Aviation, Poppy Khoza, explains that ensuring that the country maintains these high standards comes with one key component – no complacency.

“We do so much good work behind the scenes to ensure we retain our world class facilities, personnel, and standards. Few people know that our country’s aviation standards are way above many leading nations, since the world average EI score is 67.50%,” said Khoza. 

“These audits do take place every five years, and we were more than ready to invite the ICAO to come an assess our system again, because we also wants to continuously improve the state of aviation safety in our country. South Africa has not had a fatal commercial airline accident in over 30 years, and we strive to retain this for many more years to come. No operator can ever take to the skies unless there is an assurance of safety from the Regulator’s side.”

So then how has the Regulator, as a state-owned entity, fared over the years?

“Well, we actually reported the ninth successive clean audit from the Auditor-General in the last 10 years, at the end of the 2021/22 financial year,” said Khoza. SACAA also achieved 100% of all targets in the annual performance plan approved by the Minister of Transport. As much as clean audits are critical in ensuring a sustainable and responsibly run entity, the Regulator’s conviction is also whether we can safely say that we are able to discharge our mandate effectively and consistently. International and independent bodies such as ICAO provides that assurance that our mandate of a safe and secure civil aviation industry is achieved”. 

“When it comes to General Aviation, we also reported a decrease of 25% in fatal accidents involving light aircraft and a 26% decrease in fatalities resulting from aircraft accidents when compared to the previous financial year.”

Khoza is a trailblazer with a wealth of experience in the aviation sector. In addition to being the first black woman to be at the helm of the country’s Regulator, she was also elected to Preside over the 41st ICAO Assembly that took place in Montreal, Canada, last year. The first ever woman in the world to preside over the Assembly. 

At the same Assembly, South Africa was also re-elected to serve on the Governing Council for another three-year term. Our country has served an uninterrupted term since 2003.

In Khoza’s term in office, there have been other milestones achieved by South Africa, such as retaining the Category 1 status received after South Africa was audited by the SACAA’s regulatory counterpart, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of the United States in July 2022. 

“The significance of this Category 1 Status is that South African operators can continue to fly or operate directly into the United States without restrictions, bringing a huge economic benefit for the country and the aviation industry,” said Khoza. 

In addition, South Africa’s air cargo security system was also assessed by the United States’ Transport Security Administration (TSA) in June 2022 and received permanent recognition from this body, which bodes well for the country’s cargo operators who can operate unhindered in the United States without the burden of having to be assessed as individual operators. 

“South Africa’s aviation cargo system is also recognised by the SACAA’s European Union (EU) counterpart in terms of their ACC3 programme. After having undergone several of these assessments with the EU, South African airlines transporting cargo to EU States do not apply individually, and at cost, to the EU for recognition because of the recognition given to the South African oversight system,” Khoza added.

“Ultimately, this is not just our efforts alone but a collaboration with our shareholder, the Department of Transport, as well as the respective industry operators and airlines. I will also encourage all aviation players in the country to continue with their support and their drive that has made us one of the safest skies in the world.”

Key aviation decision makers meet to discuss the future of aviation safety and security at #nac2023

The future of continental and global aviation will be the core focus when the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) hosts the 2023 National Aviation Conference (NAC) at the Houghton Hotel in Houghton, Johannesburg, tomorrow, Friday 14 April.

This highlight event on the annual aviation calendar is in its fifth year and is aimed at providing a platform between the authority and the aviation industry to share knowledge for mutual enrichment and collaboration; and to advance safety and security within the air transport sector. 

Under the theme of Reimagining the future of aviation safety and security, this year’s #NAC2023 will have the Deputy Minister of Transport, Hon. Lisa Nkosinathi Mangcu in the cockpit, where he will deliver the keynote address.

The conversations will include topics on: 

• The Impact of the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) on the air transport sector in Africa.

• Insights on how aviation organisations are reimagining the future of their operations, including the subject of urban air mobility.

• The state of aviation safety, with conversations on South Africa’s progress with the implementation of the Global Aviation Safety Plan. 

• Unpacking the issue of environmental protection and what the ICAO 41st Assembly resolution on LTAG2063 means for the country, as well as the continent.

The Director of Civil Aviation, Ms Poppy Khoza, said: “The #NAC2023 presents us with an opportunity to network as we cross-pollinate by sharing our knowledge and experience within the aviation industry. With a room full of industry experts, this is a priceless opportunity to advance aviation safety and security. 

“There is a lot on the horizon for aviation and many steps that we have taken globally after the COVID-19 pandemic period to ensure the viability of the aviation sector in the country as well as on the continent. 

South Africa was recently audited by ICAO through the USOAP CMA programme, and their insights will form part of the key discussions and critical topics that will be unravelled at the conference, which is one of the annual highlights in terms of aviation safety and security discussions.” 

Also aboard are a wide range of international speakers, panellists, and industry experts that include Mr Prosper Zo’o Minto’o (Regional Director: Western African Region, International Civil Aviation Organization), Ms Adefunke Adeyemi (Secretary General: African Civil Aviation Commission), Mr Mthoko Mncwabe (Chief Information Officer: Airports Company South Africa), Ms Nozipho Mdawe (Chief Executive: Air Traffic Navigation Services), Mr Elmar Conradie (Chief Executive: Safair), and Mr Rodger Foster (Chief Executive: Airlink).

About the SACAA

The South African Civil Aviation Authority is mandated with controlling, promoting, regulating, supporting, developing, enforcing, and continuously improving levels of safety and security throughout the civil aviation industry under the Civil Aviation Act, 2009.