South African Airways “Fast Tracking” Inexperienced Pilots for A359’s

South African Airways has been in a terrible financial situation for a long time. While South Africa should be a big aviation market, the airline has an inefficient fleet, an inefficient route network, has been losing money for nearly a decade, and there are also reports of a lot of corruption and mismanagement. In fact, the airline has gone through five CEO’s in the past 8 years. In other words, they are a hot mess.


Similar to most airlines, South African Airways is attempting to make their fleet more efficient by purchasing more fuel-efficient planes. They are set to receive two new A350-900 jets over the next few weeks, but SAA is at the center of a controversy regarding the training of their flight inspectors. The two officials, who are in charge of evaluating the condition of each plane in the fleet, are alleged to be “dangerously underqualified” and lacking in the necessary experience the role demands.

A report filed by the Civil Aviation Authority claims that the two investigators have “limited operational experience” and one of them has “never actually flown a plane” before.


In June 2019, the airline announced they would supplement their existing long-haul fleet with new Airbus A359’s and would operate SAA’s ultra-long-haul routes between Johannesburg (JNB) and New York (JFK) with the 359’s despite being cash strapped.

The airline received a huge cash boost last week of R5.5 billion (US ~$3.7 billion) from government, adding to numerous bailouts over the past several years, but is nowhere near operating at a profit. 


The introduction of these state-of-the-art aircraft to SAA’s fleet are critical for transformation, becoming more efficient and financial sustainability. However, “fast tracking” inexperienced pilots to operate planes is absurd.

I love planes and hope to fly SAA’s A359’s but SAA needs some serious work.

What do you think about SAA’s “fast track” process?

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