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Cablegate: South Africa Civil Aviation Authority Improves

VZCZCXRO7097
RR RUEHDU RUEHJO
DE RUEHSA #0932 0750429
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 160429Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY PRETORIA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8727
INFO RUEHDK/AMEMBASSY DAKAR 1238
RUEHTN/AMCONSUL CAPE TOWN 4071
RUEHDU/AMCONSUL DURBAN 8670
RUEHJO/AMCONSUL JOHANNESBURG 6374
RUEANHA/FAA WASHDC

UNCLAS PRETORIA 000932

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED
SIPDIS

FAA FOR MCINTRON NANGELO
DAKAR PASS TO FAA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAIR ECON SF
SUBJECT: SOUTH AFRICA CIVIL AVIATION AUTHORITY IMPROVES
SAFETY STANDARDS COMPLIANCE

REF: PRETORIA 00152

1. (SBU) Summary. The South Africa Civil Aviation Authority
(SACAA) has improved its compliance with international
aviation safety standards according to a Federal Aviation
Administration (FAA) technical assistance team. The FAA
expects to conduct an audit of the SACAA in June to determine
if SACAA will retain its favorable Category One status. The
SACAA will be well-positioned for the audit if it is able to
resolve two outstanding issues relating to civil aviation law
and inspector qualifications. The FAA assured the SACAA that
no pre-determination had been made regarding South Africa's
status and that the FAA is pleased with the cooperation and
work being done by the SACAA. If SACAA is downgraded by the
FAA to a Category Two, South African airlines would be
prevented from adding flights and routes and participating in
code-share agreements with U.S. airlines. End Summary

2. (SBU) A FAA technical assistance team providing aviation
safety consultations to the SACAA March 5 to 9 told Economic
Counselor and the Civil Aviation Officer that the SACAA has
completed 40% of the action items required to bring SACAA
into compliance with international aviation safety standards.
The action items are contained within a joint FAA/SACAA
action plan developed to help SACAA meet International Civil
Aviation Organization (ICAO) safety standards when the FAA
conducts an audit in June. The FAA technical assistance
team, reimbursed by SACAA, made its third of five planned
visits and reported that significant progress had been made
by the SACAA since FAA's last technical assistance visit in
December when only 5% of the action items were complete.
During a March 9 out-brief with SACAA, the FAA team leader
praised the SACAA for making progress and for the SACAA's
cooperation.

3. (SBU) Despite the progress, at least two issues remain
unresolved which could cause the SACAA to be downgraded by
the FAA from its current favorable Category One status.
South Africa's civil aviation law presents a confusing and
inefficient method for aviation safety oversight. The FAA
team identified both short and long-term aviation law
solutions for the SACAA to pursue. The SACAA also lacks
operations inspectors who are technically qualified for
certain types of aircraft that fly to the U.S. SACAA intends
to hire qualified ICAO operations inspectors while the SACAA
builds its own staff of inspectors. If the short-term
aviation law solution and ICAO inspector contracting are
implemented before the June audit, the SACAA will be in a
better position to maintain its Category One status at that
time.

4. (SBU) The FAA technical assistance team was also able to
help resolve a miscommunication between FAA and SACAA. Prior
to the team's arrival, SACAA CEO Zakes Myeza expressed
concern to the Civil Aviation Officer that the FAA had made a
pre-determination to downgrade South Africa from a Category
One to a Category Two without waiting for the results of the
June inspection. Myeza based his concerns on a February 22
conference call held between the FAA and South Africa's ICAO
representative. The ICAO representative told Myeza and sent
a memorandum to the Minister of Transport stating that South
Africa was unlikely to pass the June audit and that the FAA
was not pleased with the work being done by the SACAA. On
the first day of the team's visit, a conference call was held
between Myeza and FAA representatives in Washington to
clarify that no pre-determination had been made and that the
FAA was pleased with the cooperation and work of the SACAA
thus far.

5. (SBU) The next steps are for the FAA to complete the last
two scheduled technical assistance visits in April and May.
These visits will be followed by the above-mentioned
inspection in June. Based on progress reviewed during this
inspection, the FAA will inform the SACAA whether it will
remain in Category One or be downgraded to Category Two.
Category Two status would prevent South African airlines from
adding flights and routes and participating in code-share
agreements (such as South African Airway's current code-share
agreement with United Airlines). Embassy will keep
Washington informed of the results of these visits.
BOST

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