Yes, boring title but muo importante. The United Nations body that makes aviation suggestions that are hard to ignore, a bit like Scarface, is in the South African house. ICAO which stands for ‘International Civil Aviation Organisation’ has its safety inspection team prodding South African systems over the next two weeks. It comes at an opportune time. SAA Chairperson Dudu “Sleepy” Myeni hasn’t said a word for a few months, which is good news if you value intelligence reports, and incidents/crashes are down generally over the past two years. The team in SA are operating under ICAO’s Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP). Or Use Soap. To keep a clean safety record. (Groan)
ICAO also stands for ‘Improvements and Collision Avoidance’ and ‘Instructions for Continued Airworthiness’. But I digress. So what’s going to happen? Well ICAO checks to see if our Civil Aviation Authority is up to scratch, that Air Traffic Controllers are alert and bushy-tailed, that fuel is available, safety records are kept, maintenance logs are filed, pilots are doing proper training and the hangar ping-pong table has enough green paint along with a long list of other check and balances. Apart from the ping-pong table bit (which is thumb suck) this is a good thing. ICAO doesn’t make rules, it has suggested regulations that each nation follows – or doesn’t. The problem for those who ignore ICAO is their airlines crash and burn. Or they’re banned. Or both.
They’re a bit like the inspectors who used to be allowed to check on teachers before SADTU went out of its mind and decided that their so-called maths experts with english as a major shouldn’t be monitored. Therefore technical education is in a pit, but not aviation.
ICAO specifications aren’t to be sniffed at. As a signatory, South Africa has Aeronautical Information Publications that if you search online long enough you’ll find these missives. These used to be posted to pilots but since the Post office decided it would rather deliver its lower middle class staff easy holidays, the CAA no longer sends these missives. Neither does it send NOTAMS to pilots. Which is a bit of a contradiction because NOTAM means Notice to Airmen (and women). I loved receiving the NOTAMs in the post, pages of warnings about airport closing, runways being resurfaced, hangars being moved, tests being conducted. Now I read it on the hangar notice board when awaiting my flight from CDC Aviation at Lanseria.
Countries are supposed to update AIP’s every 28 days, which continues to happen in South Africa so I’ve not doubt that the ICAO inspectorate will tick that box. But that’s not all folks. ICAO standardises various items in aviation such how to define atmosphere which is at the heart of flying. Gauges and instruments need to be calibrated according to pressures, temperatures, density, viscosity and altitude (and a few others we won’t mention here). Wrong calibration can be terminal. It also codes airports. For example Lanseria is FALA and King Shaka in Durban is FALE. Just to slightly confuse the reader, there’s another bunch called IATA which has a separate code for FALE which is DUR. For Durban. Which is actually iThekweni.
ICAO is also responsible for Aircraft registration. So tonight, for example, I’m flying ZS-CTP which is the “tail number” of a Cirrus SR20 aircraft. Next time you’re bounding onto a plane between A and B, jot down the code on the tail and search online for its date of purchase, general maintenance issues, and use FlightRadar24 to check its flights over the last week for free. I look forward to ICAO stamping South Africa free and fair to fly, then having a couple of free margaritas courtesy of South African Civil Aviation Authority Director, Poppy Khoza before jetting back to ICAO-land satisfied with our systems.
If not, it could mean more than a slap on the wrist. Out of interest, the last time the USA had a safety audit was in 2008, which seems a bit odd as its one of the busiest zones in the world.
As you can see from the audit results, while South Africa lags the USA in planning specifically with regard to accidents, we’re not that far off the world’s empire state. Long may we remain of high standards as you and I clamber aboard our trusty composite steeds and are whisked hither and thither.