Philippines ready for FAA upgrade

As Philippine Airlines flexes its wings!

—The US Federal Aviation Aviation (FAA) has announced that it will be conducting another safety audit to the Republic of the Philippines in October 2009 after diplomatic request was made in Washington by Philippine President Gloria Arroyo. The request was favorably endorsed by US President Barack Obama to FAA Administrator Lynne Osmus who ordered the re-audit. The Philippines aviation safety rating was downgraded 15 months ago.

Department of Transport Secretary Leonardo Mendoza said that the government is confident that it will pass the safety audit of the FAA this time as most of its recommendations as to aviation safety standards are already complied while the rest are to be made ready when inspection is made.

Safety audit was already made by International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) last February and got a good remarks from Geneva based institution.

The safety audit report will determine whether the country is eligible for safety upgrade and the process usually takes a month after re-assessments has been made, according to the FAA Associate Administrator Margaret Gilligan.

The Country was downgraded after inspections were made by the US FAA on Air Transportation Office (ATO) record books, and it failed to monitor and properly check pilot performance, inadequate training programs for technicians, incompetent flight instructors and breaches in record keeping that affect safety regulations.

The upgrading will allow the country's airline to expand flights to US airports, an FAA official said Friday.

Only Philippine Airlines flies to mainland United States with points in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Las Vegas. It plans to expand service to San Diego and Chicago after the safety upgrade rating.

Department of Transportation spokesman Thompson Lantion said the creation in 2008 of a new agency, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, to oversee safety standards, was a major step in reforming the aviation sector.

"We are very confident that we'll be able to achieve the FAA approval with all the efforts being done now," Lantion said.

He said the FAA's scheduled audit of its aviation sector would include a check on safety and the standards of aircraft mechanics and pilots.

Lantion expressed optimism that the Philippines would be able to hurdle it old status of Category 1 safety rating, after the Washington based FAA reduced it to Category 2 in December 2007 after a safety audit conducted 3 months earlier.

Lantion said there was always the risk the Philippines would be downgraded further and its airlines not be able to fly to US airports anymore, but was optimistic that such scenario is so remote as the government could easily remedy those safety concerns raised by US inspectors.

FAA Safety Rating is expected to be released in the first week of December 2009.

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