15 Dec 2007. Vernon Bricknell (CEO of Nationwide Airlines) and his team have got Nationwide Airlines up and running fairly quickly, after their Aviation Maintenance Organisation was suspended. According to their latest press release (see below), their London-Johannesburg flights are fully running, and their South African operations are slowly getting back to normal. Imperial Holdings-owned Safair won the contract to do the heavy maintenance for Nationwide Airline, and are the big winner in the saga (we hope that there will be an increased focus on air safety in South Africa). The biggest losers are the 27 Nationwide Airlines employees who are being considered for retrenchment, followed by the passengers who missed their Nationwide flights as a result of the grounding, followed by the shareholders of Nationwide Airlines.
In the middle of the Nationwide Drama, the head of the SACAA (South African Civil Aviation Authority) resigned. On the 13th December the SACAA announced that Captain Colin Jordaan is CEO of the SACAA effective 10 December 2007. Jordaan was previously in charge of flight operations at SAA, having been at the company since 1980.
STATEMENT BY THE CEO, NATIONWIDE AIRLINES
11 December 2007 - 12:00
We apologise to our customers for any inconvenience and confusion that has been experienced due to the disruption of our service, particularly at the start of the festive season.
We are working diligently to resolve these issues in order to resume our normal operation.
We apologise to customers who have waited for long periods when attempting to contact us. This is due to the large volume of calls we are receiving.
BACKGROUND / TECHNICAL ISSUES
In September 2007 the SACAA conducted a full audit of our Aviation Maintenance Organization (AMO). During this process there were a number of findings which is quite normal during any audit. These findings were immediately addressed and rectified with the necessary corrective action and were subsequently closed.
On the 7th November we experienced an engine separation on one of our Boeing 737 aircraft and were immediately notified by the SACAA that another full audit of our AMO facility had been scheduled. Simultaneously, a South African Airworthiness Directive was released requiring all operators of Boeing 737 – 200 aircraft to conduct certain inspections of engine attachments, fittings and bolts. We undertook this work and complied with the requirements however during the installation of one cone bolt, the engineer failed to note the identification numbers on the required documentation as they were not clearly visible.
Our Quality Assurance Department failed to identify this error prior to the submission of the paperwork to the SACAA. This is where our problems began. By the time this bolt was removed and presented to the SACAA where it was demonstrated that the identification numbers could be read under a very bright light (the ink-footprint was visable), the damage had been done and a decision had already been made to suspend our AMO as of midnight of the 29th November. We received this notification at 21h00 that night.
As there was no other AMO that was readily available to undertake maintenance of our aircraft, this resulted in a temporary suspension of the Certificate of Airworthiness of each aircraft in our fleet. Our documentation control system immediately became subject to severe scrutiny by the SACAA and a complete audit of each aircraft’s documentation was required prior to the re-instatement of our AMO together with each aircrafts Certificate of Airworthiness.
This process commenced with the review of our Boeing 767 documentation. The heavy maintenance for this particular aircraft had been conducted by KLM in Amsterdam. During the CAA inspection, there were three airworthiness limitations that had not been recorded on our database which had been issued by Boeing in March 2006. We interpreted these limitations as only being due for compliance within the next 36,000 hours of flight time or within the next 6 years, whichever occurred first. The Civil Aviation Authority had a different interpretation and believed that these were overdue. Clarification was eventually obtained from Boeing who confirmed these airworthiness limitations did not apply to our aircraft and even if they did, they would not be applicable for completion until 2012.
WORKING TOGETHER WITH THE SACAA
On Wednesday 5th December in close cooperation with the SACAA we established a way forward and jointly identified a number of measures that would facilitate the most rapid release possible of aircraft to service in order that normal flight operations could resume. To expedite the process, we came to an agreement with Safair, the largest independent Aviation Maintenance Organization in South Africa to immediately take over our heavy maintenance requirements, as well as maintenance planning and record keeping. Nationwide Airlines would resume responsibility for the line maintenance and “A” Checks.
FLIGHTS OPERATED / ALREADY IN SERVICE
On Thursday (6th December) our Boeing 767 was released to service and the AMO suspension was uplifted to allow us to conduct A-checks and line maintenance. On Friday (7th December) our service to London-Gatwick resumed.
On Saturday (8th December), our service form (sic) London-Gatwick to Johannesburg resumed. During the course of Sunday (9th December) we operated a limited domestic service on the JNB-CPT-JNB route and then operated our service to LGW.
Our full schedule between Johannesburg and London-Gatwick has now resumed, including our Tuesday day-liner flight.
LATER THIS WEEK
We have already commenced flights between Johannesburg and Cape Town and Johannesburg and George. From 12th December we will add flights between Johannesburg and Durban and from 14th December between Johannesburg and Livingstone and Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth.
Other routes will subsequently follow as the aircraft are released to service.
We will soon have a schedule of aircraft for release to service and will then be able to publish the exact flight schedule. We anticipate that such a schedule will be available this week.
IATA / BSP / CUSTOMER CARE / REFUNDS
During the temporary suspension of our service, IATA suspended the Bank Settlement Plan which effectively prevented any Travel Agent from making bookings and thus generating any further liability for Nationwide Airlines. On Sunday 9th December, this was uplifted and normal sales were able to resume.
Customers who were not able to travel on Nationwide Airlines flights due to the temporary suspension of service are entitled to a full refund. Banking procedures require that refunds be processed in accordance with strict guidelines to prevent duplication.
If tickets were purchased through travel agents, passengers must apply directly to the travel agent for a refund.
Any payments made by credit card, over the internet, or with Nationwide Airlines directly will be refunded by Nationwide Airlines. A form and instructions for such refunds can be downloaded here.
Chief Executive Officer, Nationwide Airlines