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South Africa's grounded CemAir prepares to resume flights

South African carrier CemAir's air operator's certificate has been restored by the country's civil aviation regulator, after months of being grounded.

CemAir states that it received its renewed AOC on 17 October, enabling the carrier to resume commercial flights with a number of South African-registered aircraft.

The airline, based in Johannesburg, mainly uses a fleet of Bombardier CRJs and Dash 8 turboprops.

Its restored AOC allows it to operate six aircraft, comprising five Dash 8s and a single CRJ900, for scheduled airline operations, plus one Beech 1900D for air taxi work..

CemAir had been the subject of scrutiny for months over maintenance and operational compliance before the carrier was grounded by the South African Civil Aviation Authority both in December 2018 and in January 2019.

These groundings prompted a legal battle and an appeal judgement in April overturned the bans – but the carrier was nevertheless unable to resume services because its air operator's certificate had reached the end of its validity period three months earlier, on 28 January, which left its renewal at the discretion of the regulator.

CemAir says the process of renewal has been "finalised" and that it plans to start restoring domestic services to Margate and Plettenberg Bay, with other destinations to follow.

"We thank all those who stood by us through this difficult time," it states. "We look forward to your continued support as we re-establish our services."

The Civil Aviation Authority points out, however, that CemAir is still only authorised to use seven of its 21 aircraft, adding: "The rest will return to service as and when CemAir presents them to the [authority] for inspection and evaluation, and they are found to be compliant."

Tensions between the airline and the Civil Aviation Authority remain.

CemAir continues to refer to the groundings as having been "illegal", and describes the regulator's statements on the matter as "inflammatory", while the Civil Aviation Authority has previously indicated that the airline was evasive and failed to submit evidence that it was meeting maintenance requirements.

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