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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
07PRETORIA3102 2007-09-05 04:40:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Pretoria
Cable title:  

SOUTH AFRICA SCRAMBLES TO AVOID CATEGORY II STATUS

Tags:   AORC EAIR FAA PREL ICAO SF 
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1. (C) Summary. Economic Counselor and Transportation Officer
recently met with South African Civil Aviation Authority
(SACAA) CEO Zakes Myeza and his team to discuss the FAA audit
process. Myeza sought to find out what the potential
"showstoppers" would be in terms of retaining Category I
status. The results of the audit indicated deficiencies in
six of eight areas. However, the lack of operations
inspectors who are technically qualified for Airbus aircraft
that fly to the U.S. and the confusion regarding ultimate
responsibility for aviation safety are the two areas that put
Category I status in the most jeopardy. Myeza stated that
SACAA is currently taking steps to address these two areas.
Officials at the Department of Transport are also looking to
address deficiencies in an attempt to avoid a potential
downgrade to Category II. End Summary.



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Recent Audit


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2. (C) The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) completed
the latest ICAO standards audit of the South African Civil
Aviation Authority (SACAA) on August 3. Economic Counselor
and Transportation Officer met with SACAA CEO Zakes Myeza,
Assistant to the CEO Anton Richman, Senior Manager for
Airworthiness and Certification Obert Chakarisa, and Senior
Manager of the Legal Department Ntheri Magoai to discuss the
FAA audit process on August 24. Myeza stated that his team
had made some progress in addressing what they perceived as
potential showstoppers in terms of retaining Category 1
status. Although the FAA audit revealed deficiencies in six
out of eight areas, two areas were described as potential
showstoppers. The first is the lack of qualified operations
inspectors to inspect South African Airlines Airbus aircraft
that fly to the U.S. The second issue is that SACAA has both
a CEO and a Commissioner responsible for air safety and
current aviation legislation does not clearly delineate who
has the ultimate authority on safety issues. Furthermore,
there are issues as to whether the Commissioner is fully
independent from the Ministry of Transport and SACAA.



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--
SAG Plans to Address the Potential Showstoppers


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--



3. (C) Myeza stated that the SACAA has made progress in
defining roles in the inspector process. CAA has a resident
ICAO advisor who is conducting an audit procedures course and
an aviation enforcement course and both classes have twenty
or more students. The SACAA has recently issued regulations
clarifying the nine technical areas that require inspection
and ongoing training will be provided with the goal of having
at least one inspector qualified in each of the nine
technical areas. Myeza has also prepared a proposal to
address the Commissioner issue and plans to present it to the
Minister of Transport. He plans to consult with FAA to
ensure that his team is on the right track.



4. (C) Transportation Officer also met with Department of
Transport (DOT) Director of Civil Aviation Levers Mabaso to
discuss the FAA audit on August 31. Mabaso stated that the
DOT is looking at the Commissioner issue and is considering
short and long-term plans to satisfy ICAO standards. The
short-term plan would be to take the Commissioner out of CAA
and place his office at the DOT so that the Commissioner
would be independent from the SACAA. The long-term plan
requires changes to the current aviation legislation to make
the Commissioner completely independent of both the DOT and
the SACAA.



5. (C) Mabaso also mentioned a plan to address the issue of
accident investigations. A recent ICAO audit revealed that
South Africa does not have enough accident investigators to
match the number of aircraft in operation. In addition, the
accident investigation unit is currently under the
jurisdiction of the SACAA CEO and that creates a potential
conflict of interest. Mabaso stated that there is a skills
deficit within South Africa for engineers and other trained
personnel that can conduct accident investigations. DOT
plans to bring the accident investigation unit to DOT and
eventually make the unit independent with the power to act on
recommendations provided by the investigators. Mabaso noted
that transferring the unit to DOT has significant financial
implications and so the plan will take time to implement.
According to Mabaso, the SAG is looking to "not copy the
West, but to copy the best" in terms of revising its aviation
legislation and this search for the "best", along with other
bureaucratic delays, may cost South Africa precious time.



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A Decision is Imminent


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6. (SBU) FAA is currently reviewing the August 3 audit and
will be sending out a cable with the official results
shortly. Once the official results are released, senior FAA
officials will visit South Africa to discuss the results.
SACAA will have 30 days from the date the report is delivered
to respond. A final decision regarding a potential downgrade
to Category II flight safety status is expected in the next
few weeks.



--------------------------


Comment


--------------------------





7. (C) The South African Government is seeking to avoid a
downgrade from Category I by implementing a series of plans
to address deficiencies pointed out by the FAA audit. There
are questions as to whether these plans can be implemented
quickly enough and to the satisfaction of ICAO safety
standards. The Embassy is continuing to support SAG in its
efforts to meet ICAO flight safety standards. The Charge
raised the potential downgrade with Deputy Foreign Minister
Aziz Pahad on August 31 (Septel). Pahad took the news
seriously and said he would raise the issue directly with
Minister of Transport Radebe. End Comment.
Teitelbaum