Antonov planes now banned from South Sudan airspace

<strong>Antonov planes now banned from South Sudan airspace</strong>
Stephen Rombe Tako Lojulo, Director General-Air Navigation Service at South Sudan Civil Aviation Authority. [Alex Bullen, The City Review]

The South Sudan Civil Aviation Authority (SSCA) has banned all the Antonov planes operating in the country, citing safety concerns linked to substandard maintenance.

The Director General-Air Navigation Service at the South Sudan Civil Aviation Authority, Stephen Rombe Tako Lojulo, said the authority ascertained that most of the aircraft operating in the country have safety glitches.

He revealed this to The City Review in an exclusive interview yesterday.

Crackdown

Mr. Lojulo also serves as the head of the Safety Over Sight Committee that was tasked with deliberating on the ADP and maintenance records of planes in the country.

“As we speak today, all Antonov [aircraft] have been grounded, especially AN-26, AN-24, 28, and 30, including AN-SO Hawkers and HS-748. [There is only an] exception to the UN operated Antonov.”

He urged the owners of the planes to find ways of removing them, as he maintained that Antonov’s planes had flown into the sky as of yesterday and the communicators in the control tower had been directed to implement the order except for the United Nations’ planes.

“Do you know why we say UN? Because they have clean documents, clean records and periodically they fly back to Ukraine,” Tako explained. 

Grace period

He further revealed that the aviation authorities served a notice to the owners that the grounded planes were allowed to leave South Sudan to their state of the registry within one week as of this week.

“Enough is enough. Our people’s lives matter. We cannot continue spoiling our airspace with names like that. We have to put an end to these routine plane crashes. Yes, we understand the plane accidents are there, but it should not be our recklessness, ” he stressed.

With the crackdown gaining momentum, the aviation boss was categorical that only those companies that have clean documents from the approved international maintenance centres may be allowed back into the airspace.

“But now, no way! They should cease from operations within South Sudan until further notice.”

This measure comes barely a week after an Antonov cargo plane, Optimum Antonov 26, en route to Maban County, Upper Nile, crashed shortly after taking off from Juba International Airport. Five people were confirmed dead in the incident.

After the incident, the ministry of transport formed a committee to investigate the cause of the fatal crash which was speculated to be overloading. The ministry is yet to table a conclusive finding.

Plane crashes

Since independence, South Sudan has witnessed several aviation accidents that have involved Antonov aircraft.

Some of them include one of the South Supreme Airlines that happened at Pieri, Uror County, killing all 10 people on board, including the two pilots.

The incident prompted President Salva Kiir to suspend the airline after numerous similar plane crashes in the youngest country.

Another incident was noted in August 2020, when a South West Aviation plane carrying cash crashed in Wau,  Western Bahr el Ghazal.

The plane crashed a few minutes after leaving the airport, killing four passengers and three crew members; only one survived.

In June 2020, crew members escaped the aircraft accident in which a South Supreme Airlines Antonov AN-26, cargo flight left Juba to Renk but escaped the airstrip slip during landing at Renk airstrip.

Also on November 5, 2015, a Ukraine-based Antonov An-12 plane left Juba Airport for Paloch, Upper Nile State, and crashed 800m (half a mile) from the runway, killing at least 36 people. Only two people were rescued, and one of them later died.

The authorities said in their report that the plane failed to undergo timely technical services that should have included work on extending its resources and exploitation timeframe. 

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