Bad news?
(The Philippine Star) - February 19, 2014 - 12:00am

I hope for our country’s sake that this is not true.

This writer received what is supposed to be the unsigned advance official notice of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) to the Governance Commission for Government Owned or Controlled Corporations (GCG) regarding the exit briefing of the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) IASA Assessment of CAAP last January 20-24, 2014.

The assessment is necessary to determine whether or not the Philippines can be elevated from its Category 2 to Category 1 status.

Five years ago, the US FAA downgraded the then Air Transportation Office to Category 2 due to safety concerns that have remained unaddressed.  The downgrade prevented Philippine carriers from flying to new routes and increasing flight frequency to the US.

Two years after the FAA ruling, the European Union banned Philippine carriers from flying into EU states.

In 2012, the ICAO cleared the CAAP of sanctions, prompting the EU to lift the ban early last year and allowing Philippine Airlines to fly to London.

In conducting its IASA assessment, the FAA uses a standardized checklist that groups the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards on safety oversight into eight critical elements – primary aviation legislation, specific operating regulations, organization structure and safety oversight functions, technical personnel qualification and training, technical guidance, certification personnel and procedures, surveillance obligations, and, resolution of safety issues.

To achieve Category 1 status, the country must demonstrate that it meets the ICAO standards for each of the eight elements. Category 2 status means that the civil aviation authority (CAA) was non-compliant in at least one critical element.

While there finding were minor on the first element and no findings on the second and third, one important negative finding was concerning the fourth element. It says the required OJT for operations and airworthiness inspectors does not cover all job responsibilities;  that none of the CAAP operations inspectors has completed recurrent training other than the aircraft specific flight training; that the CAAP Airmen Examination Board personnel are not trained to prepare, administer, and evaluate written theoretical exams, that CAAP airworthiness inspectors do not receive sufficient training.

There were also findings on elements  five and six and none for seven.

To summarize, the FAA audit found 15 violations which means that our CAAP remains at Category 2. Actually, we needed just one violation to remain at our present category.

As I said, let us hope for our nation’s sake that this is just another poison letter – just like the supposed signed decision on the Office of the Ombudsman preventively suspending the MWSS chief which turned out to be false.

If it is true, then bad news for our carriers who have been made to believe that the upgrade is forthcoming.  Cebu Pacific is eagerly waiting to fly for the first time to the US and has in fact ordered the aircraft that it needs.

PAL for its part wants to open new routes, including those that would fly direct from Manila to the East Coast.

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