Concerns over “rookie” SAA plane inspectors

The Sunday Times has reported that the SACAA (South African Civil Aviation Authority) has insisted on SAA paying for two inspectors to receive full A350 training.

The training is required before the new A350 planes – which SAA is set to put into service soon – are allowed to take off. The A350s will replace older planes on the Johannesburg-New York route.

However, according to the report, several industry sources said the SACAA’s instruction amounts to “extortion”.

Of more concern is that the inspectors put forward by the SACAA have “limited operational experience”.

The report stated that the two inspectors:

  • Have limited operational experience.
  • One inspector has simulator training for a passenger jet, a Boeing 737-800, but has never flown one.
  • The other inspector’s flight logbook records only 102 flying hours as “pilot in command”. Her logbook also shows she achieved a “third pilot” rating on the Airbus A340.

“The SACAA denied anything unusual about the conversion training, which it said was part of its statutory mandate. It said the two inspectors earmarked to provide A350 oversight are suitably experienced,” stated the report.

“It is important to indicate that the qualifications required need to compare favourably or exceed those of the operator’s personnel with whom they will engage during inspections and surveillance activities,” it said.


A senior SAA pilot who spoke to the Sunday Times said providing “theoretical Airbus training to inexperienced inspectors who could not fly jets was pointless”.

“It’s like having a nurse oversee a brain surgeon performing an operation,” said the pilot.

He added that the SACAA no longer employs people with the qualifications and experience required to do their job properly.

Another pilot said the training for the inspectors was irregular, and called it “extortion” to get SAA’s new planes in the air.

SAA said it was aligned with SACAA on “what needs to be done” and will see this initiative through.

Big problems

SAA is in a massive financial mess, and has been bleeding billions of rand for years.

The airline has received numerous government bailouts, and in July it was promised further financial help from the government.

The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse has said SAA is an unfixable mess.

“The past 11 years have seen the government pump around R50 billion into the airline to keep it afloat,” it said in June.

“Just as we did with Telkom, the time has arrived to allow an external partner with experience in efficient airline management to take a stake in the airline, if it is going to survive.”

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Concerns over “rookie” SAA plane inspectors