Linden Birns/CAPE TOWN

South Africa's Civil Aviation Authority chief executive, Trevor Abrahams, and several airline pilots have been arrested and face prosecution for their part in the alleged illegal trading in airline transport pilot licence (ATPL) examination papers and certificates.

The arrests, which have cast a question mark over the integrity of the recently corporatised CAA, follow a confession earlier this year by an SA Airlink pilot that he had purchased his ATPL from CAA officials. At the time, Abrahams denied the claims, but allowed an independent assessment committee to investigate the allegations. The South African Police Services Commercial Crime Unit launched its own probe at the same time.

Two other South African CAA officials, three South African Airways (SAA) first officers and two other pilots have also been arrested. South Africa's Transport Minister, Dullah Omar, said Abrahams was investigating irregularities within the SA Police Airwing when a warrant was issued for his arrest.

SAA chief executive Coleman Andrews said in a statement that the airline did not require its first officers to hold ATPLs, but it was a legal requirement for Captains. Following an investigation, the CAA told SAA that the allegations were flimsy, leaving the airline with no grounds to suspend the pilots' licences. SAA conducted its own investigation and unsuccessfully requested the CAA to share its evidence with the airline. Instead, the CAA set up an independent review panel to investigate the allegations.

Earlier this year, Abrahams became the subject of an Airline Pilots' Association (ALPA-SA) complaint following an incident when he abandoned a hired Beechcraft Baron he had been piloting after damaging it in a night-landing incident at Johannesburg's Rand Airport.

Source: Flight International