The SACAA is rightly committed to providing world class regulation of aviation in South Africa. To do this it adopts international practices and standards – usually from either the American FAA or Europe’s EASA.
The problem is that the South African regulator is building its own unique empire by mixing regulations from the FAA, EASA, Canada and Australia. This has produced a hash-up of sometimes contradictory regulations and awkward outcomes. For example, for Part 121 Operators, what the world considers to be Chapter 8 of the regulations has become Chapter 9 in South Africa. This gives the SACAA’s inspectors the opportunity to create the ‘tea-time rules’ for which the regulator has been much criticised, and makes it very difficult for the industry to know what to expect. Perniciously, these random rules provide the CAA with opportunities to levy R10,000 fines on pilots that lawyers advise would in many instances not stand up in court. Just the threat of these fines has been the root cause of much of the breakdown in relations between the CAA and its clients.
I have been sent a recording of a telephone conversation between two SACAA inspectors. It is horrifying in that it reveals a cat and dog animosity between the inspectors and some key figures, in both the SACAA and its clients, most notably the Designated Flight Examiners responsible for the fundamentally important job of upholding the standards of flying in South Africa. One of the inspectors is on record for having said that he “despises” a particular DFE and wants to “puke” when he hears his name. This is fertile soil for grudges to develop and fester.
Part of the challenge faced by Ms Poppy Khoza as Director of the SACAA may be, as an insightful pilot friend says: “Decisions of import are being made on the ground by officials with an axe to grind, and there is no oversight of them. This leads to incorrect decisions placing undue legal liability stress on the SACAA. There is a reason they keep losing the court battles. The solution is simple: require all disciplinary and enforcement matters to be heard by a committee comprising SACAA senior officers and two outside non-executive people of sufficient standing in the aviation community. This would save the SACAA an awful lot of time and money.
“The CAA is an organisation out of control – and it has lost sight of its raison d’être. It certainly does little to enhance and nurture the growth of aviation in RSA. In a perfect world we’d have a right to contact our MP and express concern and have Parliament take this up, but this is SA! The UK got it right when they appointed a Deputy Minister to oversee the regeneration of general aviation.”
If the strategically important function of general aviation is to be preserved against toxic administration, South Africa, and indeed the rest of Africa, also needs a government initiative to regenerate it.