From www.iol.co.za February 12 2010 at 07:30AM
By Craig McKune
An official South African aviation inspector has landed himself in hot water after he climbed aboard Thabo Mbeki's charter plane in Khartoum without permission and "forced and broke" the door on his way out.
It is understood damage caused by the inspector ran into millions of rands. He was flown home immediately and a relief aircraft was sent from South Africa with an engineer aboard to repair Mbeki's plane, which was chartered from the SA Air Force.
The incident reportedly interrupted Mbeki's African Union mission in north Africa, where he is chairing the AU High Level Implementation Panel on Sudan and visiting north African leaders.
According to the SA Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the inspector, who was not named, was in Sudan because the country's authorities were concerned that a high number of South African-registered aircraft using their airspace were not airworthy.
The inspector was auditing companies mandated by the CAA to maintain South African planes, and he was inspecting all South African-registered aircraft as well.
"The inspector noticed the Gulfstream II aircraft parked on the civil apron with a South African registration. There was no indication that this was an Air Force charter," CAA spokesperson Kabelo Ledwaba said.
He boarded the craft immediately. No crew was present.
Having checked the plane's documentation, he "experienced technical difficulties" when he tried to close the door.
The inspector immediately called SA Air Force officials who talked him through closing the door from the inside. "When the exercise was repeated from the outside, it failed to close properly. It was then decided not to continue in case further damage was caused."
Ledwaba said the inspector did not need the crew's permission to board in their absence, according to Civil Aviation Regulations or CAA procedures.
He denied rumours on online aviation forums that the inspector had been arrested for "breaking and entering".
It is understood the incident is being investigated by the National Intelligence Agency. "The inspector is expected to submit a comprehensive report to the SACAA," Ledwaba said.