Oribi Airport in limbo as Airlink waits on CAA

2009-12-28 00:00

ORIBI Airport remained deserted at the weekend following the grounding of 14 SA Airlink Jetstream aircraft last week.

Airlink is the only major airline that flies to Oribi.

Passengers booked on flights to Pietermaritzburg were flown to Durban on other airlines and brought to Pietermaritzburg by road.

Residents who wanted to make bookings for flights to and from the local airport this weekend were told that, for now, there are no new bookings.

Local SA Airlink staff were on standby and were waiting to hear from their head office as to when flights to and from the local airport will resume.

The SA Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) suspended the airworthiness certificates of the 14 Jetstream aircraft on Wednesday after a Jetstream was involved in an abor­ted take off incident at Nelspruit airport.

Roger Foster, SA Airlink CEO, said the problem was due to the failure of an engine turbine seal plate component.

He said that the failure was similar to that identified by the CAA as a contributing cause in the September 24 crash of an Airlink plane in Durban.

Foster added this was a manufacturing error and the U.S.-based engine manufacturer, Honeywell Aerospace, and BAE Systems have been drawn in to sort out the problem.

According to reports, the CAA has expressed satisfaction at the corrective measures being put in place by Airlink. However, the civil aviation body has warned that the entire process will probably only be completed by the end of January. At this stage, it seems the 14 Jetstream aircraft will be able to fly again only after each one is examined by the CAA and re-certified.

Airlink have other aircraft types in its fleet, previously used on the Pietermaritzburg route, that have not been suspended.

A resident who asked why these planes are not being used on the local route was told that they are being used for more remote locations that have no airports close by. This was to avoid passengers being left stranded. Pietermaritzburg is close to Durban, so Airlink is making use of its airport for its passengers.

Dr Julie Dyer, acting manager for Municipal Enterprise, which oversees the airport, said SA Airlink has been in constant contact with her and has undertaken to keep her updated on developments.

“This is a manufacturing fault beyond the control of the airline. We sympathise with Airlink. Let us hope that the problem is solved as soon as possible,” she said.

Both Dyer and councillor Pops Chetty, who is chairman of the Economic Development and Growth Committee, apologised to local re­sidents for the inconvenience. Chetty said they will be meeting Airlink to discuss the situation.

Foster apologised to his customers. He said if there are any queries, passengers should call SA Airlink’s reservations helpline on 011 451 7350.

“All our passengers will be accommodated, although there may be some minor disruptions to our normal schedule,” he said.

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