SA Air Force maintenance suffering from loss of skilled technicians
The aircraft maintenance capabilities of the South African Air Force (SAAF), including that of the presidential Boeing Business Jet, have decreased dramatically since the last of the AMG/Denel support personnel were laid off, resulting in serious implications for aircraft serviceability and safety. The long standing contract between the SAAF and Aero Manpower Group (AMG), a Denel business unit, provided specialist technical and support personnel who were responsible for the maintenance and airworthiness of a variety of SAAF aircraft, including those in the VIP squadron, at bases across the country. However, the last group of support personnel were laid off at the end of April this year. The SAAF decided in 2011 to terminate the AMG contract because it had been declared irregular by the Auditor General. Approximately 523 aircraft specialists were stationed at various bases and squadrons countrywide, including Hoedspruit, Lephalale (Ellisras), Makhado (Louis Trichardt), Bredasdorp, Ysterplaat and Langebaanweg. Lt Col Ronald Maseko, spokesperson for the SAAF, previously told defenceWeb that “the contract dates back to a period (1986) where the current governance regime did not exist. Consequent to the Auditor General’s findings in 2009, that the contract does not comply with the Public Finance Management Act and National Treasury Regulations, the SAAF has engaged its strategic partner Denel Aviation in pursuit of an acceptable solution.” At the time, trade union Solidarity said that at least 75% of the 523 Denel employees were in the scarce and critical skills band, without which efficient functioning of the SAAF will not be possible.