Regulating the aviation sector
DEMAND AND SUPPLY - Boo Chanco (The Philippine Star) - November 19, 2018 - 12:00am

Sometime during the early part of P-Noy’s term, I had a conversation with the CAAP director general at that time. He said there is really a need to vastly improve the regulatory capabilities of CAAP to ensure safety and business efficiency.

Did you know, he told me, that for the longest time CAAP was filing data on the licenses of pilots in shoe boxes? They were also issuing pilot’s licenses printed on cartolina? He said they do not have the right computer system. They also don’t have the right people.

An example he cited is that they have the same check pilots for a 747 and the much smaller business jets. Because the pay allowed by government rules is so low, they have to appeal to the sense of patriotism of retired PAL pilots to help as check pilots.

I think things have improved vastly since that conversation. It is to the credit of CAAP’s officials that last year, Philippine airports scored 70.19 percent at the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) Global Safety Audit, a score higher than the 64.85 percent global average.

It wasn’t too long ago when we were downgraded by the US FAA to a category that reflected their safety concerns about our airports and our aviation regulatory environment. That FAA rating became a hindrance for the expansion of Philippine Airlines in the US.

Now, we have finally invested in proper equipment. CAAP recently inaugurated a state of the art surveillance and air management system that enables them to know everything going on up there. They are now able to bill airlines overflying our airspace.

I have seen the serious efforts of the current CAAP leadership to bring the quality of our aviation regulatory system up to par with international standards. But, we aren’t there yet.

For one thing, the way we look at business aviation needs to be improved. This need came out strongly during last week’s Aviation Safety Day sponsored by the Philippine chapter of the Asian Business Aviation Association (AsBAA).

The impression I got was that we are regulating business aviation in the same manner that we are regulating commercial aviation. This one size fits all approach is wrong, as an official of CAAP admitted.

Donaldo A. Mendoza, CAAP deputy director general for operations, said we should modernize the rules covering the business aviation sector. CAAP, he said, is now studying the possibility of adopting two global codes to further improve landside and airside operations in Philippine airports.

“Adopting a new set of regulations is a development that will not only modernize our policies but also ensure that organizations are meeting highly professional codes of safety practices,” Mendoza said.

Mendoza said CAAP is supportive of the advocacy of the business aviation sector for the adoption of the International Standard for Business Aircraft Operations (IS-BAO) and International Standard for Business Aircraft Handlers (IS-BAH).

“I believe that adopting a separate set of regulations for business and general aviation operations is a measure that will support this growth.”

Adopting two codes, according to AsBAA Philippines Chapter head Benjamin R. Lopez, would help the business aviation industry which contributes greatly to the country’s economic development.

In a sense, business aviation in our country is almost an afterthought. It is lumped together with other private aviation in the category of general aviation. In the light of NAIA air traffic congestion, it is this sector that had to be sacrificed for slotting priority.

Given that the large conglomerates are the ones affected, it is time for them to talk to government about having an airport that will exclusively handle their flight operations.

They need something like Teterboro for the New York Metropolitan area. The oldest operating airport in the New York and New Jersey metropolitan area, Teterboro is now focused on removing the smaller and slower aircraft from the regional air traffic that would cause major congestion at the Port Authority’s commercial airports.

Sangley would be the ideal business aviation airport, but government must make up its mind on what it wants to do with the former American air station. Or if government wants them to operate out of Clark, it should be established as a policy.

Operating out of Clark is not a big deal. INAEC, the business aviation company of Mr. Lopez, has started looking at a Clark option. Given land and air traffic congestion in Metro Manila, INAEC is now offering an interesting travel option.

Because general aviation cannot get slots in NAIA during the daytime hours, INAEC picks up business passengers by helicopter from buildings in Makati or elsewhere in Metro Manila and brings them to Clark where they take one of their business jets.

What the local business aviation sector needs badly is a definite word from government on what exactly are their plans for them so they can adjust.

Three other things must be done urgently. One is the creation of a National Transportation Safety Board with a mandate to investigate all transportation accidents nationwide. We cannot rely on agencies that regulate the transport sector to investigate accidents since the fault could well be on the quality of regulation.

Secondly, there is the need for CAAP to stop managing airports and just stick to regulation. Doing both is a serious conflict of interest.

For instance, it was widely suspected that CAAP delayed its certification of the Caticlan Airport because it will get flights out of Kalibo which CAAP manages.

Finally, privatize air traffic control. I heard controllers are getting restless and may strike over salaries. Others are getting pirated to work abroad.

Salaries for air traffic controllers have international standards. Going private will make it possible to pay internationally competitive salaries.

Because we are an archipelago, aviation is a vital sector that must be world class. We are getting there but somehow still not fast enough.

Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is bchanco@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @boochanco

DONALDO A. MENDOZA PHILIPPINE AIRPORTS
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