SAHPA and the Declared Training Organisation (DTO)

Dear Members,

In November 2021, the Minister of Transport (Fikile Mbalula) signed the 21st Amendment to the Civil Aviation Regulations. The purpose of this regulatory change was to align the aviation industry in South Africa, with international norms (ICAO Annex 1) for aviation training and licensing.

These regulations have now been promulgated and are in effect. There is a significant change buried in the legalese which will have a significant impact on schools and instructors across the entire aviation industry (ie. not just PG, HG and powered versions).

On Wednesday 26th January 2022, the SACAA hosted a webinar for all instructors, describing how this will affect schools.

NB: This regulatory change was initiated by the Department of Transport and SACAA, not SAHPA, however this article has been written to explain the the context and impact on SAHPA members.


For the past decade, and up to the present date, SAHPA applied for, and was approved as an Approved Training Organisation (ATO). Under this ATO, all schools were (and still remain) subject to SAHPA’s oversight, with SAHPA taking ultimate accountability for regulatory compliance in school operations. This has been an awkward regulatory fit, and far from ideal:

  • Oversight of school operations has consumed a significant proportion of SAHPA effort and attention. The three volunteer SAHPA Executives are accountable to ensure regulatory compliance in school operations, and they are also personally liable for non-compliance and negligence.
  • The committee is also required to frequently intervene and discipline to ensure that standards (required by the regulator) are met, and this raises inevitable complaints about conflicts-of-interest and nepotism.
  • In October 2021, the SACAA published General Notice PEL2021-ATO001 (PDF download) which banned “flipping” flights by ATOs.

Thankfully, the international legislative trend is to move away from the prescriptive ATO model, towards the Declared Training Organisation (DTO) model. While there is a lot of detail that underpins the concept, it may help to think of the DTO as a corrective regulatory mechanism to shift the risk and accountability to where it rightfully belongs: with each school.

What this means for schools and instructors

  • Paragliding and Hang-gliding schools will no longer be accountable to SAHPA. Instead, each school will submit an application to the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) to be recognised (or declared) a school along with key supporting documentation. Each school will then report directly to SACAA, and will be audited accordingly.
  • As the schools will no longer share the SAHPA ATO, each school will be independent and unaffected by adverse findings in another school.
  • The schools can choose to either utilise the standard minimum syllabi or may adjust it for further approval with SACAA. This provides flexibility while still maintaining the training standard which will now be overseen by the regulator rather than volunteers and remove the possibility of nepotism.
  • A prospective DTO needs to make application for an approval from the SACAA in order to operate as a DTO. The DTO, once approved, must operate in terms of the conditions of its DTO Certificate and DTO Training Operations Specification.

What this means for ordinary SAHPA members

In a word: nothing. This regulatory change does not directly affect ordinary members. 

  • All pilots must still be registered with SAHPA for the 3rd Party Aviation Insurance.
  • Instructors must still be SAHPA members.
  • SAHPA will still facilitate licence renewals, licence upgrades and provide ICASA radio licences for SAHPA members.
  • SAHPA will still collect incident and accident statistics.

What this means for SAHPA

Once the burden of oversight has shifted to SACAA, SAHPA will be able to refocus efforts into things which benefit recreational members, such as:

  • The implementation of the new, fully-integrated digital licensing platform
  • Promoting recreational flying across all disciplines
  • Preparing safety seminars
  • Promoting competitions
  • Improving relationships with land-owners, clubs and tourism boards
  • Promoting South Africa as a flying destination
  • Identifying and developing new sites.

While the transition may have some hiccups, this change will be a good thing for SAHPA as the risk to all SAHPA members and the organisation will be eliminated and SAHPA will be better positioned to rightfully focus on the recreational membership.

This regulatory change introduces a significant shift in the industry, and everyone is likely to have questions. We have captured the most common concerns in the FAQ (see below). However, instructors and schools are urged to please contact the SACAA directly for detailed guidance.

Lastly, SAHPA will host a virtual session on Wednesday the 2nd February, all members are welcome to attend. Details to follow.


The SAHPA Committee

Frequently Asked Questions

When will this happen?

The SAHPA Approved Training Organisation (ATO) certificate expires on the 28 February 2022, however SACAA has extended this to allow for all the schools to transition to DTOs. All schools must have completed their transition before the end of July 2022.

Preference will be given to existing RAA approval holders converting to a DTO.

Why was the training syllabus changed?

The training syllabus (as presented) is in line with regulatory requirements. However, this syllabus is not prescriptive, and was developed as a template to assist schools in their transition to the DTO. Each school may modify their syllabus and submit to SACAA for approval.

Will SAHPA close down?

No, SAHPA will NOT close down, as SAHPA is still mandated as the Aviation Recreation Organisation (ARO) for free-flying sports. SAHPA will continue to facilitate licence renewals and upgrades for members. SAHPA will continue to track incidents and accidents, and strengthen relationships with clubs, landowners and competition organisers. SAHPA will also continue to provide SAHPA members with Aviation Insurance for damage or injury to 3rd parties, as well as ICASA radio licences.

Must clubs also register as DTOs?

Only if the club offers training as part of normal operations.

What will happen to the TFI indemnity books?

Each school will be responsible for their own indemnity and waiver process and forms. SAHPA will eventually stop selling the indemnity books.

What does it cost a school to transition to a DTO?

Any school with an existing RAA approval and with 6 months or more to run before expiry of their ATO Certificate may make application to be approved as a DTO without having to pay additional fees.

What is the process to get started?

Step 1. A school must contact SACAA by sending an email to to indicate their interest and intention to transition to a DTO.

Suggested wording: “I have a valid ATO number RAA005/00? and I wish to convert to a DTO – please would you allocate me a SACAA DTO number so I can continue with my application, the 5-phase process and be allocated an inspector.”

Step 2. SACAA will then provide a SACAA DTO number which will be used in the application process. SACAA will then assign an inspector, who will guide the school through the requirements. SAHPA will not be involved in this process.

Step 3. Complete the DTO application form and submit to the designated SACAA inspector.

Could SAHPA remain an ATO?

No. This is a regulatory change where SAHPA does not, and cannot meet the ICAO Annex 1 requirements of an ATO.

SAHPA could apply to become a DTO, but this will add complexity to SAHPA operations and still not resolve the problem of volunteers being held accountable for non-compliance and negligence in schools and commercial operations.

This question has been edited for clarity.

Where can I find the SAHPA ATO Certificate?

The ATO Certificate is available on the SAHPA website.

The school registration letter is the letter you would have received from SAHPA in 2017 or when your school was registered (Acceptance letter for schools), which you should already have on your school file.

May multiple schools create a collective DTO?

Yes. This would need to be discussed with the SACAA inspector.

May TFI (Grade C) instructors open a DTO for tandem flights?

We don’t know. Instructors would need to discuss this with the CAA inspectors.

Any questions?

If you still have questions, please send an email to, and if we know the answer, we will publish the answer here.