South African CAA to intensify Airlink audit after ERJ incident

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South Africa's civil aviation authority is intensifying an audit of regional carrier Airlink after it suffered its third serious incident since mid-September, but does not appear intent on grounding the carrier.

One of Airlink's Embraer ERJ-135s overran the runway while landing at George Airport, in the south of the country, suffering substantial damage to its forward fuselage.

The accident follows the fatal loss of a BAe Jetstream 41 at Durban in September and an incident last month in which another J41 veered off the runway at Port Elizabeth.

The South African Civil Aviation Authority says the regulator is carrying out an "intensified audit" of maintenance, operations and training at Airlink - a process initiated after the September crash. The authority says it is "working very closely with the operator to rectify deficiencies picked up in the audit".

However, the CAA indicates that it is not prepared at this stage to impose any operational restrictions on Airlink.

Airlink is listed on the IATA operational safety audit (IOSA) registry, but this does not cover operations conducted using the airline's Jetstream 41s. IATA clarifies the limited scope of Airlink audit, stating that the Jetstream operation "does not meet all IOSA standards".

Meanwhile, in the wake of the latest accident, the airline has recruited an independent specialist to carry out an extensive review of its operations.

"I have called for the net to be cast wide," says Airlink chief Rodger Foster, adding that the review will examine "numerous aspects".

A recently retired South African Airways flight-safety specialist has been brought in to look at its procedures.

These will include its leadership structure, cockpit resource management techniques, and compliance with standard operating procedures.

"While we are confident that Airlink complies with South African and international regulation and best practice, if there are gaps, then we want to know where they are," says Foster. "We will implement whatever measures are necessary to close them."