Keeping SAA's birds flying
ENGINEERING analyst at South African Airways' (SAA's) technical department Ronny Makgakga tells us about his job.
What do you do?
Part of my responsibilities include managing the SAA fleet of aircraft to ensure that, among other things, they are airworthy and comply with aviation regulations as set by the International Civil Aviation Organisation and other prominent aviation safety role-players such as the South African Civil Aviation Authority and the Federal Aviation Administration.
What does your company do?
I work for SAA Technical (SAAT), which is a subsidiary of SAA. SAAT is the largest and most advanced full-service aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul organisation on the African continent.
Not only do we service our own aircraft, we also service an increasing number of local, regional and international airlines from our premises at OR Tambo International Airport, as well as at Lanseria, Cape Town, Durban and other, smaller airports.
What does a typical day in the life of an engineering analyst entail?
It primarily entails ensuring that all safety modifications and inspections are accomplished in order to optimise the air worthiness of our fleet. This means resolving service technical glitches in line with manufacturer and civil aviation regulations.
How long have you been with the company?
I have been with SAA for the last 10 years and I am still enjoying every day of it.
What challenges do you face?
Making careful decisions in most cases within a short period of time. These decisions ultimately affect the safety and air worthiness of our fleet. It is a big responsibility indeed as there is no room for errors.
What do you like and dislike about your job?
Like: The industry is unique and you need to continuously work at improving yourself. You also need to keep yourself abreast of all new technologies as you and your company need to be ahead of all competitors.
Dislike: The unpredictable fuel price as it has a direct impact on the airline's operation.
Has it always been your dream to do what you do?
Yes, I knew from childhood that I wanted to be in the engineering field but I was mostly thinking about the automobile industry as I did not know much about careers in aviation.
Once I learnt more about this industry, my interest was heightened and when an aviation opportunity came I grabbed it with both hands.
What and where did you study?
I studied mechanical engineering at the Peninsula Technikon, which is now known as the Cape Peninsula University of Technology.
What's the worst thing that ever happened to you in your line of duty and how did you overcome it?
At SAA we take our jobs seriously and consequently no major incident has occurred.
However, I remember when I was still a rookie I initially battled with grasping the myriad systems and processes that need to be followed, while also being expected to deliver and improve knowledge through on-the-job and other external training.
I also had to quickly learn to be very meticulous in whatever task I carried out to avoid aviation errors.
Where do you see yourself being in the near future?
Owning and managing an engineering consulting firm.
If you were not doing what you are doing today, what do you think you would be doing and why?
I would be working in engineering still but most probably in the automobile industry.
What advice do you have for young people who would like to do your kind of job?
Show your interest by researching the aviation industry.
This should include site visits to aircraft maintenance organisations such as SAA Technical, which will offer the opportunity to interact with people who are knowledgeable about the industry.