Opinion Skinning Left, pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1
Opinion ( Leaderboard Top ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1

Aviation agency itself is unsafe for air travel

What, the world will end today, Dec. 21, 2012, according to the Mayan calendar? Don’t worry; The STAR will cover it for you.

*      *      *

My recent series on corruption and ineptitude at the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) yielded just what I wanted. Emboldened aviation industry sources came forward to narrate what else they know. I have verified their info, all of which explain why countries have shut out the Philippines, and the travel and tourism sectors are faltering. Consider:

• The CAAP treats lightly the importance to aviation safety of English language proficiency. To ensure that they understand each other, pilots and navigators, CAAP traffic controllers and testers are supposed to be adept in the international and Philippine language of aviation. Many crashes and other air accidents have been traced to pilots and controllers’ imprecise English and inferiority complex due to inability to communicate. The UN International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has recommended certain rules for national agencies to adopt for English training, like 100 hours of specific instruction.

From at least two of several local language schools the CAAP filched sample test questions, then devised its own training module. It wasn’t so much to save money than to impose a racket: take our English test or else you get no pilot’s license. The dumbed-down in-house version had no certification of training effectiveness, say, in radiotelephony.

Then came in 2007 the downgrading of the Philippines to Category-2 by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and the blacklisting by the ICAO and the European Union. A succession of CAAP leaders feverishly strived to get the country back into the “safe” list. In the process they found out that the ICAO recommendations for English training were just that, recommendations. So the English proficiency was dumped. They failed to consider that the EU, for one, treats language so seriously that it is enough reason for giving unskilled CAAP personnel failing marks. And the excuse for ditching the English requirement was so absurd. Supposedly some pilots were submitting fake proficiency certificates anyway, so what’s the use of requiring it. It was like doing away with genuine currency because of the proliferation of counterfeits. The US, Australia, Britain and other native-English speaking countries impose the language-proficiency rule. Does it not follow, for safety’s sake, that non-native speakers should do the same?

Opinion ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1

• Overseas training itself is a racket. The CAAP sent 11 personnel for training in New Zealand for a course that cost $1,000 per head. The total outlay, however, was $87,000, or roughly $8,000 per head. If a round-trip plane fare to New Zealand costs $1,500 and accommodation costs $1,000, where did half the government outlay go? The approvers of the trip and releasers of the funds allegedly know the answer to that question.

• Pilot licensing too is a racket. If illiterate jeepney and bus drivers can obtain licenses by bribery, so can unscrupulous non-professional pilots, for P30,000-P70,000. This is not to say that commercial pilots are fakes. On the contrary, most are highly trained, but fall victim just the same to CAAP extortionists. One airline recently hired foreign pilots, temps for three months, due to a shortage of adept ones in big aircraft. The pilots’ experience ranged from five to 20 years of flying the world over. Yet the CAAP delayed release of their local pilot license for six long weeks — half of their contracted stint. Meanwhile, the airline was paying their expat salaries and first-class hotel accommodations. The CAAP had the temerity to blame the airline for taking that long to wise up that it needed to pay grease money.

• Yet another racket is the certification of private flying schools, charter services, and aircraft maintenance. The more prestigious outfits usually offer multi-services, dutifully securing yearly licenses for each. Unscrupulous CAAP personnel prey on them. One such company outside Metro Manila refuses to pay bribe for one-time licenses for its many services. Even before arriving, CAAP inspectors, in groups of three, command it to prepare P5,000 per head per day, plus hotel accommodations for five days (with spouses or mistresses). The five-day duration is in itself anomalous because, by rule, regular inspections have to be done within a day or two. Only when problems arise should the inspectors extend their stay. And many times has it been pointed out that many CAAP inspectors are not even qualified.

• The worst anomaly is organizational. The CAAP combines two major responsibilities: regulation and air crash investigation. These should be divided between two separate agencies. For, the CAAP regulatory offices may be so corrupt as to cause a crash — like in certifying poor pilots, flying schools, or decrepit aircraft. And yet the investigation offices just down the corridor might cover up for them. After all, they are daily pancit snack and nightly drinking buddies. A CAAP whistleblower says this is exactly what happened to the probe of the crash that killed Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo last August.

CAAP sleaze saddles airlines and, consequently, travelers. Philippine carriers cannot fly to Europe or use new aircraft to the US. They are forced to use fuel-guzzling jumbos in international routes. Plane fares can thus cost 30-percent more, instead of saved and passed on to passengers.

*      *      *

Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

E-mail: jariusbondoc@gmail.com

Opinion ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1
  • Follow Us:
Opinion Skinning Right, pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1