Others will help if fires break out - Working on Fire

2015-07-16 16:23
A Working on Fire Huey helicopter.

A Working on Fire Huey helicopter. (Liza van Deventer, Netwerk24)

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We speak to a volunteer fire-fighter - WATCH

2015-03-03 18:15

News24 Live went behind the scenes at the Newlands Fire Base where the Working On Fire team coordinate their aerial and ground assaults on wildfires. They are assisted by a number of volunteers who have been in the thick of the recent blazes. Watch. WATCH

Johannesburg – Despite Working on Fire’s aircraft being grounded, other service providers will help out if needed, the organisation, which trades as FFA Aviation, said on Thursday.

“There are other contractors that have resources. There is capacity from other service providers, especially in forestry,” FFA Aviation’s CEO Johan Heine said.

“And we have 6 000 firefighters on the ground,” he said.

The South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) suspended the organisation’s air operating certificates for failure to comply with legal requirements, spokesperson Phindiwe Gwebu said in a statement on Thursday.

Gwebu said the decision was made “following a recent spate of incidents and accidents involving aircraft operated by FFA Aviation”.

“Recent surveillance conducted on FFA Aviation yielded various findings which, according to the SACAA, were serious in nature,” she said.

Heine said 14 helicopters and one fixed-wing aircraft had been grounded. After the problems were addressed they should be back in the air in two weeks, he said.

“We had a very good meeting with the SACAA yesterday [Wednesday]. We had a very bad spate of accidents, which can happen to anybody, and which did raise concern with the public, media and the helicopter association.

“We fully understand that there are shortcomings and we will address them.”

The SACAA’s safety audit was being undertaken parallel to ongoing accident investigations by the transport department’s aircraft accident division.

Three people have been killed in Working on Fire helicopter crashes since March.

Pilot Darrel Rea and firefighter Jastun Visagie were killed on April 22 when their helicopter crashed in the Bainskloof area, in the Western Cape, during an attempted emergency landing. Both men were Working on Fire volunteers. 

Willem Hendrik “Bees” Marais was killed on March 8 when his Bell 212 Huey helicopter crashed near Olifantsbos in the Table Mountain National Park. He was a freelance pilot for Working on Fire.

The organisation was started as a government initiative in 2003 to train people to fight veld and forest fires.

Read more on:    sacaa  |  working on fire  |  air crashes  |  aviation

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