South Africa’s civil aviation regulator has been forced to defer ICAO audits, and postpone replacement of its lost flight-calibration aircraft, as a consequence of the coronavirus outbreak.

The Civil Aviation Authority told a parliamentary transport portfolio committee on 18 May that it had drawn up three scenarios for the development of South African lockdown measures – adding that, in the worst case, it would generate no revenues except for fuel levy on cargo flights.

In this worst-case scenario the authority would only have enough cash to sustain itself for seven months before the “drastic” measure of government assistance would be necessary, said director of civil aviation Poppy Khoza.

A pessimistic scenario envisions a seven-month lockdown and a nine-month period of sustainability with an 84% fall in passenger numbers for the year, while the most optimistic outlook puts the lockdown at five months with a 77% fall and 10 months of cash reserves.

While the government lowered the lockdown level on 1 May it still restricts all domestic and international passenger flights, with only cargo services permitted. A further lowering of the level would be required for a limited number of conditional domestic flights to restart.

Khoza said expected ICAO follow-up audits would be deferred and, to save costs, capital expenditure would be pushed back for 12 months.

This expenditure was set to include acquisition of a flight-inspection unit aircraft to replace the Cessna Citation II calibration jet lost in a fatal accident in January.

One member of the committee queried when the aircraft would be replaced, stating that it was “sorely needed” and its absence would be an “additional burden” on the regulator. Although he acknowledged that there were plans to lease capacity in the meantime, he pointed out that “it’s better to have your own” for security reasons.