Concern over increase in local air fatalities in 2011

South African aviation history is littered with accidents and fatalities, with 325 people dying in air crashes in the country since 2004.

The Tzaneen crash has already brought the number of air fatalities in the country to 30, surpassing last year’s total of 24.

Phindiwe Gwebu, corporate communications and marketing manager for CAA, said all the fatalities involved noncommercial aircraft.

Gwebu said the leading causes of the crashes were human error and mechanical faults.

“You will find that pilots may decide to fly against bad weather, misjudge fuel, or fly between power lines,” she said, adding that in some cases, the aircraft involved in accidents were “not airworthy”.

This is the second time that planes in formation have crashed into a mountain, said aviation expert, Brian Emmenis.

In 1971, three air force Mercurius planes flew one after the other into Devil’s Peak in Cape Town during practice for the Republic Day military parade that year.

Available statistics from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) show that a shocking 1196 aviation accidents have occurred since 2004, with 166 of these being fatal crashes.

Gwebu said the CAA was concerned about the increasing number of air fatalities.

“We will be hosting a safety seminar in October. The aim is to engage with all role airplayers in a bid to cut the fatalities by half, by 2014,” said Gwebu.

However, South Africa, compared to other countries, has lower air fatalities due to control mechanisms, such as the CAA.

The country aircraft register had 11289 registered aircraft at March 31.

The CAA table, below, records the statistics on accidents, fatal accidents and fatalities.