Aviation expert wants CAA to probe reports of SAA flight taking off despite fuel contamination, SACAA refutes allegations

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Aviation Expert Guy Leitch says the Civil Aviation Authority needs to investigate the reasons behind a South African Airways flight being allowed to take off after it reportedly experienced fuel contamination issues on the ground.

In April, an Airbus A330-300 had taken off from Accra, Ghana, to OR Tambo International Airport – however, one of the engines reportedly surged mid-flight.

Leitch says despite landing the aircraft in Johannesburg, the lives of around 200 people were put at risk.

“SAA had changed the fuel supplier in Accra and in the fuelling process they discovered that there was water in the fuel. They kept the plane on the ground in Accra for about 16.5 hours while they tried to purge the fuel system. So they signed it off with the authoriser for a ferry flight back. But a ferry flight should not be carrying passengers, it was just to take the aircraft back for maintenance. But they still loaded up 183 passengers and 25 staff crew.

“Not surprisingly, the aircraft literally landed in very serious problems over the middle of the Kalahari. The incident wasn’t reported to SACAA by SAA at all. Ultimately it was the Ghanaian authorities. The CAA should be stepping in to take charge of this accident,” Leitch explains.

‘False and sensationalist’

SACAA, however, calls the allegations “false and sensationalist” and rejects them.  According to a statement, on April 17, 2022, South African Airways (SAA) reported an incident to the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) via the regulator’s Central Safety Reporting System.

According to the airline, fuel was contaminated as the crew was getting ready to take off from Accra, Ghana, for OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg.

“The crew activated the safety procedures, which led to the draining of the water-contaminated fuel, followed by the refuelling of the aircraft. The aircraft subsequently continued with the return commercial scheduled flight to OR Tambo International Airport,” further reads the statement.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Note this article was modified to reflect SACAA’s view in response to the allegations.]