The occasion of the 78th anniversary of the formation of the THE COMMERCIAL AVIATION ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHERN AFRICA NPC presents a worthwhile opportunity to review the origins of the Association and its development since 1944. As seventy ears is a milestone in the life of any organization, this history will concentrate on those events surrounding the birth of the Association, a Golden Era for the Association during the 1970s to mid 1990s and some of the more recent events around the time the Association changed its name from CAA to THE COMMERCIAL AVIATION ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHERN AFRICA NPC.
Prior to 1944, commercial aviation, could not be represented on the so called “Civil Air Board” as there was no stakeholder body in existence to represent the sector. Although the need for such an association was understood, it took the upheaval of the Second World War before any positive action was taken towards creating a mouthpiece for the industry.
The birth of the Association
The first tentative steps were taken in 1942 when Captain Roy Makepeace raised the issue with John Nash. At the time, both were serving with the South African Air Force in North Africa. However, it was another two years before the Commercial Aviation Association (abbreviated as CAA) became a reality. On 6 June 1944, at a meeting in Johannesburg, the SACAA was officially launched with a membership of 25 persons, representing various concerns involved in some way with aviation. The stated purpose of the Association was to serve as “a permanent association for the furtherance of civil aviation in Southern Africa.”
William M Winstanley was elected the first president of the SACAA.
The first meeting of the Executive Committee was held on Thursday 5 October 1944 and archival records indicate that the following members were present:
- P van der Woude representing Pretoria Light Aircraft Company of PLACO (still a member today)
- Dr G Cock representing Rusakite Chemical Industries
- F Findlay representing Soil and Cement CO of SA
- D Yates-Smith representing Atlanta Industries (still a member today!)
- A Robinson representing Miles Aircraft of SA
- N Gilgillian representing de Havilland Aircraft Co of SA
- R Makepeace, who was subsequently elected “Organising Secretary.
The minutes of the same meeting reveal that an application by the Fowler Tar spraying Co Ltd for membership of the new association was approved.
There were two agenda items that were debated at length at that meeting:
- Steps to be taken to increase membership.
- Registration of the Association (Section 21 of the Companies Act).
While membership remained on the agenda for most of the subsequent meetings, as did registration, the Association’s application for registration as an “Association not for Gain” was turned down by the then Registrar of Companies, who at that time, did not have to apply fair administrative process and furnish reasons for his actions.
Some felt that he did not consider that formation of the Association to be in the public interest, since the objectives of the Association seemed to be more commercially-oriented, than those of a friendly society operating on a “not-for-gain” basis.
The next big issue confronting the fledgling association was whether the SACAA should be involved in the forthcoming Municipal Airports Congress taking place on 13 November 1944. It was decided that the SACAA should attend the Congress to raise the following three issues on behalf of the SACAA members:
- Free Trade” at all airports (members were concerned that the larger companies would “gobble up” or trample the smaller concerns).
- The proximity of municipal airports to their respective towns and the question of their size.
- Landing fees (it’s amazing how this issue always remains on the industry’s agenda).
From the outset, it was agreed to appoint Mr Makepeace as the Association’s first “Organising Secretary”. As remuneration he was offered the princely sum of 750 pounds per annum which, if the finances permitted, could be increased to 1000 pounds. This amount was supposed to cover Mr Makepeace’s administrative services, which would include provision of office accommodation and the clerical staff required to run the office, but would not include printing, stationery, advertising, postage and travel expenses. The Association undertook to refund disbursements made for these items.
And so the Association took its first tentative steps into the future and the only stakeholder body aimed at “promoting and protecting the commercial interest in civil aviation” in South and Southern Africa.
From the 1950s to the late 1960s, the Association watched over the healthy expansion of the South African Register of Civil Aircraft. By 1966, there were no fewer than 1300 aircraft on the Registrar of which fewer than 40 were used on scheduled airline service. At the time, new registrations were averaging a rate of around 178 per annum.
The SACAA occupied itself with re-writing the air navigation regulations from time to time to meet the changing needs of civil aviation. It also promoted feeder, local, short-haul and international services operated by private enterprise and was responsible for securing a wide range of legislative and administrative concessions such as taxation depreciation on aircraft and the placing of South African Air Force contracts with commercial aviation firms.
A Golden Era
What turned out to be a Golden Era for the SACAA began shortly after the arrival in South Africa in 1966 of a “foreigner” who spoke with a pronounced Dutch accent that some locals found difficult to understand. The foreigner was called Cor Beek who came to South Africa in 1966 “against his will” on a two-year contract with Autair (now CHC Helicopters). He was destined to have a profound influence on both the Association as well as the South African Aviation Industry. Cor initially became involved in the helicopter industry, which was very small at that time, and felt it was necessary to establish a helicopter association.
When in 1972 he established the Helicopter Association of Southern Africa he was asked by the President of the SACAA not to separate the industry, but to affiliated to the SACAA and to join the management committee. Shortly thereafter, he became the President of the SACAA.
At that time, with Cor not doing as much flying as in the past, he took over the Association as part-time secretary. In 1977, Cor became a full-time employee of the Association.
THE COMMERCIAL AVIATION ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHERN AFRICA NPC’s most successful achievement was when a fuel acquirement survey was done to establish how much fuel general aviation used – a very small percentage of the total fuel acquisition. THE COMMERCIAL AVIATION ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHERN AFRICA NPC received a 90% return on the survey. Furthermore, THE COMMERCIAL AVIATION ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHERN AFRICA NPC obtained the Diner’s Club fuel card, which could also be used for spares, and then later for other business. Crew cards were also introduced and THE COMMERCIAL AVIATION ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHERN AFRICA NPC was also involved with the establishment of the International Business Aviation Council (IBAC), but participation in this organization was restricted because of South Africa’s apartheid policies.
From 1978 to 1982, the Association was heavily involved with the Margo Commission. The SACAA served on most of the committees and Cor traveled to the United Kingdom and Holland for the enquiry, which was a major investigation into civil aviation in South Africa. The Margo Commission Report became the road map for the future development of aviation in South Africa during the 1980s and early 1990s.
THE COMMERCIAL AVIATION ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHERN AFRICA NPC developed a reputation for tenacity and persistence when fighting for the causes of civil aviation. The abolition of customs and excise duties on aviation fuel in 1983, saved the General Aviation sector, an estimated amount of FOUR MILLION RAND for the year 1984.
Cor Beek was the Executive Director for twenty years and his aim was the building up of the relationship between the industry and the authorities. Just prior to Cor retiring from the Association, the Board decided to change the name of the Association to the Commercial Aviation Association of Southern Africa, abbreviated as THE COMMERCIAL AVIATION ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHERN AFRICA NPC. At the time, the international trend, also to be followed in South Africa, was the setting up of Civil Aviation Authorities and the name changed was implemented to prevent any confusion arising between the Association and these authorities. The Association’s logo was changed at the same time. Cor handed over the post of Managing Director to Pierre De Bryn in 1996, but still continued to work for the Association on a consultancy basis.
The era of change
After the short tenure of Pierre De Bruyn, Peter Piggott took over the reins as Executive Director of the Association. Peter had served on both the Executive Committee of HASA and the Board of the THE COMMERCIAL AVIATION ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHERN AFRICA NPC and was a seasoned veteran of the local helicopter industry. Peter was destined to lead the Association into the era of the stand alone safety regulator and extended application of the user pay principle.
In 1998, the Government established the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) as an independent arms length regulator which would be funded on the basis of user pay. This move was to complete the last stage of the commercialization process of the State aviation service providers which had started in 1993 with the establishment of thee Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA) and the Air Traffic Navigation Services Company (ATNS). By this stage, the commercial aviation industry had reluctantly accepted the user pay funding model.
Around the same time, a new set of aviation regulations called the Civil Aviation Regulations (CAR_, 1997, were promulgated to replace the Air Navigation Regulations and Rules of the Air, 1976. Unfortunately, the process to draft a complete set of CAR could not be completed due to a shortage of funds. The fact that the new SACAA came into being with a half completed regulatory framework, limited the effectiveness rights from the start. Many within the SACAA felt that the new regulations should be re-drafted in their entirety. It was, however, Peter Piggott who told the Authority that “the industry was happy with the CAR as they stood, but wanted the regulatory framework completed”. The SACAA listened and Cor Beek was contracted in on a part-time basis by the Authority to assist with the work on the so-called “CAR Completion Project”.
Peter was also very vociferous in ensuring that the fee increases charged by the AATNS. ACSA and SACAA were kept within the bounds of reasonableness. Whenever the opportunity arose, he highlighted the importance of Government not overburdening the industry with unjustifiable fees and charges.
It was also during Peter’s time that the Association became a partner in the Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) exhibition. Many of the THE COMMERCIAL AVIATION ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHERN AFRICA NPC members mourned the industry’s loss of it own trade show and complained about the Association getting into bed with the military and the armament industry. However, the decision was dictated by practical considerations and THE COMMERCIAL AVIATION ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHERN AFRICA NPC’s partnership in AAD has proven to be useful to the General Aviation industry and has also provided a substantial part of the funding necessary to keep the Association functioning over the last decade.
Peter, like Cor before him, was a fearless fighter for the interest of the industry and we all owe both these men a debt of gratitude.
Peter Piggott retired from THE COMMERCIAL AVIATION ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHERN AFRICA NPC in 2003 and was succeeded by Oliver Stratford as CEO. Oliver remained with the Association until September 2007, when he was succeeded by Kim Gorringe. With Kim’s term having ended in June 2010, when he was succeeded by Leon Dillman. With Leon’s term having ended in September 2021. He was succeeded by Kevin Storie current COO and acting CEO of THE COMMERCIAL AVIATION ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHERN AFRICA NPC in September 2021, In 2014 Louise Olckers joined CAASA, 2016 Sam Keddle joined CAASA. With the three of them, THE COMMERCIAL AVIATION ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHERN AFRICA NPC is looking into new horizons, we will leave such an appraisal to the occasion of our next milestone anniversary.
Next milestone anniversary
This 78th anniversary, not only marks a major milestone in the history of the Association, but also 78 years of service to the commercials and general industry in all of its multitude of components.
It is especially reassuring to note that many of the original companies whose founders were involved in the launch of the Association in 1944, are still members today and their current managing directors, CEO’s, Chief pilots and chief engineers serve on the affiliate associations to the benefit of all our members.
“Many happy returns, THE COMMERCIAL AVIATION ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHERN AFRICA NPC”, and we hope that future generations of aviators will do their bit to ensure that this Association is still around in another seventy-eight years’ time.