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Proposed regs threaten South African aviationProposed regs threaten South African aviation

Lest you think that government over-regulation is purely an American sport, consider this from South Africa: Government officials want to require manned crash, fire, and rescue forces at up to 3,000 of the nation’s landing fields. The opportunity for pilots to comment on the proposal closes Oct. 24.

Aircraft park on the ramp at Ngala in South Africa. Photo by Tom  Haines.
Aircraft park on the ramp at Ngala in South Africa. Photo by Tom Haines.

It’s all a part of a government move to require licensing and registration of airports, according to AOPA South Africa President Chris Martinus. Such licensing and registration brings with it a host of requirements, including all of the CFR mandates currently in place at the nation’s large, international airline airports.

AOPA South Africa has beat back two previous attempts at such over-regulation. “This third attempt is even more onerous and requires full licensing of any airfield ‘related to tourism’ and imposes liability upon the owner for any mishaps that may occur. To date, there have been no accidents attributable to a lack of registration or licensing,” according to Martinus. “The Civil Aviation Authority proposal seeks to enforce this plan by making it illegal to take off or land at any place other than a registered or licensed aerodrome.” Not surprisingly, the outcome for small airports, some of them farm strips, would be devastating. “This implies major costs and inconvenience, which will simply result in such airfields being closed, since few (if any) of them are profitable in themselves and are usually maintained by flying clubs, farmers or various tourist attractions such as game lodges and other resorts.”

Martinus has noted that many of the nearly 800 comments on the proposal are from foreign pilots who have experienced the wonders of flying into small strips in South Africa to view game. As one who has had that experience, I can say for sure that there is no way that the airstrip at Ngala Lodge, for example, could support CFR. As I wrote after a 2012 flying safari in southern Africa, the biggest danger to the paved strip carved out of the bush is dodging the piles of elephant dung on the ramp. The small airports in South Africa are a stepping stone for flights throughout southern Africa, with flying safaris stretching into Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Namibia, for example.

The impact on companies that organize and thrive off this tourist trade would be catastrophic, as supported by comments to the proposal by AOPA South Africa and the Airfield Owners Association. “Any prohibition on the use of unlicensed aerodromes by pilots and aircraft will destroy an entire industry overnight. Private unlicensed aerodromes and landing strips have served aviation for over a century with no adverse impact on safety. This aspect has been well ventilated before the Civil Aviation Appeal Committee with considerable input from CAA, with no adverse safety issues having been identified.”

Martinus is encouraging AOPA members around the world who may have experienced aviation in South Africa to sign the petition and comment on the onerous proposal before the Oct. 24 deadline.

Wildlife at Ngala. Photo by Tom Haines.
Thomas B. Haines

Thomas B Haines

Editor in Chief
AOPA Editor in Chief Tom Haines joined AOPA in 1988. He owns and flies a Beechcraft A36 Bonanza. Since soloing at 16 and earning a private pilot certificate at 17, he has flown more than 100 models of general aviation airplanes.
Topics: Advocacy, International Travel, Airport Advocacy

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