It was a long time ago, 2001, but most people can recall in some detail what they were doing when the news smashed in that afternoon of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York. Most of us will never forget. The aviation authorities certainly will not.

The Civil Aviation Act 2009 consolidates various aviation laws, and provides for the establishment of the South African Civil Aviation Authority. There are a number of esoteric prohibitions that are beyond mention in this work,1 but the safety and security of airports and aircraft is high on the list of priorities. The Act falls under the authority of the Minister of Transport.

A. Onboard an aircraft

  1. It is a crime to:
    • take control of, or seize an aircraft by force, threat or intimidation;2
    • assault or threaten, whether physically or verbally, or behave in a violent manner towards any person (including a crew member) if it is likely to endanger the safety or security of an aircraft or anyone on board;3 or
    • interfere with any member of the crew in the performance of his duties.4
  2. It is a crime to:
    • commit any nuisance, or disorderly or indecent act;5
    • be in a state of intoxication;6
    • smoke in any place where smoking is prohibited;7
    • tamper with a smoke detector or any safety-related device;8 and
    • operate a portable electronic device when the operation of such a device is prohibited.9
  3. By the way, if you refuse to obey an instruction from a crew member, given for the purpose of ensuring the safety of the aircraft, or that of any person or property on board, or for the purpose of maintaining good order and discipline on board, you are guilty of an offence.10

  4. On, or off the aircraft, it is an offence to:
    • tamper, remove or interfere with the conveyance of cargo, baggage, mail or other goods;11
    • keep any cargo, baggage, mail or other goods which are for another person;12 or
    • by false pretence, or misstatement induce any person to misdeliver such cargo, baggage, mail or other goods.13

B. Damage to an aircraft and facilities

  1. It is an offence to destroy, or cause damage to an aircraft.14

  2. If you place any device, or substance on an aircraft which is likely to destroy or cause damage, or which renders it incapable of flight, or is likely to endanger its safety, you are guilty of a crime.15

  3. It is an offence to destroy or damage air navigation facilities.16

  4. It is also a crime to interfere with the operation of air navigation facilities in any way which is likely to endanger the safety of aircraft.17

  5. If you communicate information known to be false, thereby endangering the safety of an aircraft in service, or interfering with the operation of an air carrier, or airport, it is a crime.18

  6. It is a crime to place any device or substance at or in any airport19 or air navigation facility likely to endanger any person, or property, vehicle, aircraft, building, equipment, facility or part thereof, and thereby endanger safety.20

  7. If you contaminate any aviation fuel with an intention to endanger the safety or security of an airport, aircraft in service, persons or property you are guilty of an offence.21

  8. Any person who commits any act at an airport which causes or is likely to cause serious injury or death is guilty of an offence.22

  9. If you destroy, or damage the facilities of an airport, or of an aircraft not in service, or you disrupt the services of the airport through the use of any device, substance or weapon you are guilty of a criminal offence.23

  10. Any person who performs any act which may endanger:
    • the operation of an air carrier;24 or
    • the safety of an airport, aircraft in service or of persons or property at an airport, or on an aircraft is guilty of an offence.25
  11. If you falsely allege that any other person has committed, or is about to commit any of the aforegoing, you will be guilty of an offence.26

  12. It is an offence to gain access to any aviation facility, or air navigation facility without permission from a person in control.27

  13. If you threaten, attempt or conspire to commit the above offences you commit a crime.28

  14. If the commander of an aircraft in flight has reasonable grounds to believe that any person on board the aircraft has done or is about to do any act, which jeopardises or may jeopardise the safety of the aircraft, or the safety of persons or property on board, or the good order and discipline on board the aircraft, or has committed any act which is a serious offence he may take such measures as may be necessary to:29
    • protect the safety of the aircraft or of persons or of property on board the aircraft;
    • maintain good order and discipline on board the aircraft; or
    • enable him to disembark that person.

    If he does disembark that person he must deliver him to a member of the police services, or to an immigration officer. He commits an offence if he fails to do this.30 31

C. Aviation authorities and inspectors

  1. It is a crime to resist, hinder, obstruct, or influence any member of staff of the Aviation Safety Investigation Board, the Civil Aviation Authority or the Civil Aviation Authority Board in the exercise of his powers or the performance of his duties or functions.32

  2. If you threaten, or even suggest the use of violence in order to compel any such member of staff to perform (or to abstain from performing) any act you are guilty of an offence.33

  3. If you threaten, or suggest the use of violence against any such member of staff, or his family or dependants, on account of any act done by him or the non-performance of any act it is a crime.34

  4. It is also an offence to commit any act whereby any order given any such member of staff may be evaded.35

  5. Any person who fails, or refuses to give effect to an order issued by the Minister concerning any action by any person (or any group of persons) likely to threaten the safety or security of any person, aircraft, airport or aviation facility is guilty of an offence.36

  6. Any person who refuses to be searched, or to have his baggage, vehicle or personal effects searched, may be ordered by an authorised person, in writing, to immediately leave the airport. He commits a crime if he fails to obey the order.37

  7. Any person who refuses to have his cargo, goods, vehicle or article searched may be ordered by an authorised person (in writing) to immediately remove such cargo, goods, vehicle or article from the airport. He commits a crime if he fails to obey the order.38

  8. An authorised person may call upon you at, in or upon any airport (or air navigation facility) to furnish your full names and address, if he considers it necessary in the interests of security. It you fail to do so, or if you furnished false or incorrect information, it is a criminal offence.39

  9. It is a crime to conduct affairs or business, or carry on an occupation or trade under a name containing the words ‘South African Civil Aviation Authority’, ‘Civil Aviation Authority’ or the acronym ‘SACAA’ or ‘CAA’ or the translation thereof in any other official language.40

  10. It is an offence to falsely claim to be acting on behalf of the Civil Aviation Authority.41

  11. The Director of Civil Aviation can designate certain persons with authority to monitor compliance with the Act. These persons have wide powers of entry, seizure and inspection, and can issue ‘compliance notices’ directing appropriate corrective action in the event of contravention. It is a crime not to comply with such a compliance notice.42

  12. If you try to get an official not to perform his duties under the Act, you commit an offence.43

D. Harmful articles

  1. Unless the aircraft operator has granted the necessary written permission, it is a crime to board an aircraft if you possess (or have under your control) any harmful article.44

  2. In fact, any person who boards an aircraft knowingly that a harmful article been placed within his reach and at his disposal is guilty of an offence.45

  3. No person may enter a restricted area if he has in his possession or under his control any harmful article, unless he has the necessary authorization. It is an offence if that person does so.46

  4. The same applies if any harmful article has, to his knowledge been placed within his reach and at his disposal.47 48

  5. The Minister may direct the manager of any airport or air carrier to ensure the search of all persons, baggage, vehicles, personal effects, cargo or goods before loading, or after off-loading. Any person who fails to comply with such a direction is guilty of an offence.49

  6. The Minister can also direct the manager of any airport, or the manager of any organisation conducting any business at any particular airport, to have (without a warrant) any person searched, or any vehicle or cargo or baggage or the personal effects of any person entering any restricted area. Any person who fails to comply with such a direction is guilty of an offence.50

E. Trafficking

  1. Except if he is an officer or employee of the State, or of Armscor, or is employed under the Defence Act 2001, no person may convey any weapon in an aircraft – and commits a crime if he does.51

  2. Except with the written permission of the Minister (or an authorised person in Government service) no person shall convey any drugs in an aircraft which have not been acquired or possessed lawfully.52 53

  3. No person shall convey in an aircraft any part, portion of, or product derived from any animal without the necessary authorization, and it is a criminal offence to do so.54

F. Air traffic services

The Air Traffic and Navigation Services Company Ltd was established to take over, from the State, the responsibility of air navigation and air traffic services.

In terms of the Air Traffic and Navigation Services Company Act 1993, the Minister of Transport can, nevertheless, order the company to do anything if he considers it in the interest of national security, or to discharge international obligations.

  1. It is a criminal offence for anyone to disclose such an order, or anything done in terms of the order, if the order prohibits such disclosure.55
  1. For example, sections 111 and 112. 

  2. Section 133(a)(i). 

  3. Section 133(a)(ii) and section 135(c). 

  4. Section 133(1)(iii). 

  5. Section 135(a). 

  6. Section 135(b). 

  7. Section 137(1)(a). 

  8. Section 137(1)(b). 

  9. Section 137(1)(c). 

  10. Section 137(1)(d). 

  11. Section 138(a). 

  12. Section 138(b). 

  13. Section 138(c). 

  14. Section 133(b). 

  15. Section 133(c). 

  16. Section 133(d). 

  17. Section 133(d). 

  18. Section 133(e) and section 134(c). 

  19. Includes a heliport. 

  20. Section 133(f). 

  21. Section 133(g). 

  22. Section 133(h). 

  23. Section 133(i). 

  24. Section 133(j)(i). 

  25. Section 133(j)(ii). 

  26. Section 134(b) read with section 133. 

  27. Section 141(1) read with section 141(3). 

  28. Section 134(1). 

  29. Section 154. 

  30. This prohibition is obscurely worded, and may not amount to a criminal sanction. 

  31. Section 154(5)(i). 

  32. Section 136(1)(a). 

  33. Section 136(1)(b). 

  34. Section 136(1)(b). 

  35. Section 136(2)(b). 

  36. Section 143(1) read with section 143(3). 

  37. Section 145(10) read with section 145(12). 

  38. Section 145(11) read with section 145(12). 

  39. Section 148(1) read with section 148(2). 

  40. Section 97(1)(1) read with section 97(2). 

  41. Section 97(1)(c) read with section 97(2). 

  42. Section 114(6) read with section 114(1)–(3). 

  43. Section 136(2)(a). 

  44. Section 139(1). 

  45. Section 139(1) read with section 139(4). 

  46. Section 140(1) read with section 140(4). 

  47. This does not apply to a passenger or crew member who arrived by aircraft and who is in that restricted area for the purpose of collecting baggage containing a harmful article, provided that before he collects the baggage, he declares the harmful article to any customs officer or an authorised person. 

  48. Section 140(1) read with section 140(4). 

  49. Section 145(2) read with section 145(3). 

  50. Section 145(6) read with section 145(7). 

  51. Section 142(2) read with section 142(1)(1)(b) and section 142(6). 

  52. As intended by the Drugs and Trafficking Act 1992. 

  53. Section 142(2) read with section 142(1)(a)(ii) and section 142(6). 

  54. Section 142(2) read with section 142(1)(a)(i) and section 142(6). 

  55. Section 10(8) read with section 10(6) of the Air Traffic and Navigation Services Co. Act.