Safety Issues (May 2022)

Dear Members,

The SAHPA committee notes with growing concern the misinformation being published amongst members on social media. In response, the SAHPA committee has the unpleasant task of announcing a number of safety issues. The most recent issues include:

  • In April 2022, a TFI pilot flew into thick fog with a minor child as passenger. A complaint was raised with the SAHPA Safety Officer, and after an initial inquiry, it was determined that it was a violation of the Civil Aviation Regulations. As SAHPA has no jurisdiction over infringements, witness affidavits and photographic evidence were handed over to the SACAA Enforcement division. Following advice from SACAA, the school was suspended pending mitigation of operating risks, and the CFI of the school resigned after admitting his own inaction. The owner of the school has denied wrongdoing, and has formally threatened legal action against the SAHPA committee, SACAA and members. This matter is now under investigation by SACAA.
  • Last week video evidence emerged on social media which showed another TFI pilot launching and flying when the landing area was covered in thick fog. This infringement was never reported by the CFI of the school, and has also been handed to SACAA for investigation.
  • Two weeks ago, a member of the public was accidentally knocked over by a TFI pilot, and then subsequently involved in an altercation with ground staff.
  • In this past week, two TFI pilots launched simultaneously with a near-collision, and this later led to a physical altercation between the two pilots in full view of the public. SAHPA is still awaiting the incident reports from the pilots concerned.
  • In the same week, another tandem pilot was found to be conducting commercial flights without the required authorisation, following an altercation with safety officials.

These are not isolated incidents, but are indications of the growing trend of instructors disregarding the safety norms and governance within the sport. Furthermore, there is a pattern of insidious undermining of safety officials, with verbal abuse and threats for upholding the safety standard.

It is important that members understand that SAHPA does not have the mandate to protect the commercial interests of tandem operators.

SAHPA has an explicit mandate and responsibility to uphold the safe operation of recreational flying and training activities. If there is a breakdown in operations and safety is compromised, SAHPA is obliged to report this to the authorities.

In accordance with SAHPA’s obligations, these concerns will be raised with SACAA on Monday and direction sought, which may very well result in the closure of school operations until such time as a workable corrective action plan is put in place.

The SAHPA Committee