Cusi overhauls CAAP

Start works convincing EU against blacklist

March 18, 2010

Brussels - Its a whole new day for the Philippines beleaguered Civil Aviation Authority as its new head appointed 23 technical people—check pilots, cabin crew, accident investigators, aircraft inspectors, and other related positions in a bid to restore the country's image back to world aviation standards.

The man who made possible the tasked required to be done is former Manila International Airport Administrator and now CAAP Director General Alfonso Cusi who worked out the problem his predecessor couldn't and wouldn't do for a million reason.

Cusi, torn between serving his constituent, by planning to run for a congressional seat in the 2nd district of Oriental Mindoro, and serving the greater interest that require of him on his country, opted to served the Filipino at large, by accepting the bigger challenge to run the aviation body he inherited in serious disarray and major image problem.

His first mission is to address the Significant Safety Concerns (SSC) arising from the conduct of safety oversight audits by Geneva based International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) under Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP). Second, to regain the country's Category 1 rating labeled by the Federal Aviation Authority of the United States under the International Aviation Safety Assessments (IASA) Program, also based on USOAP findings. And Third, is to make sure that European Union will not blacklist our airlines as a consequence of such deficiencies.

The objective of USOAP is to promote global aviation safety through auditing Contracting States, on a regular basis, to determine States’ capability for safety oversight by assessing the effective implementation of the critical elements of a safety oversight system and the status of States’ implementation of safety-relevant ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs), associated procedures, guidance material and safety- related practices.

The conduct of safety oversight audits consist of three phases; Pre-audit, Audit and Post Audit. For the Philippines, the State duty is supposed to ensure that it's national aviation industry meets or exceeds the safety levels established by the SARPs at the pre-audit stage which it failed to correct in a six year cycle.

An on-site audit was later done in October of 2009 where deficiencies were noted and validated by ICAO inspectors and brought to the attention of the government for corrective action. The Philippines has 12 months to resolve the deficiencies before the EU considers blacklisting the Philippines. FAA already downgraded the country to category 2 status since December 2007.

“My first day in office at the CAAP was spent looking at the ‘serious safety concern’ that the Icao had raised last October which I will present at the European Union in Brussels this week,” said Cusi who took his first day of office in March 22.

“I am now confident that the country would no longer be blacklisted by that aviation body.” he adds.

New personnel were hired by Cusi to man the Flight Standard Inspectorate Service to address one of the ICAO findings concerning flight-safety requirements which was also a big concern to the European Union that might affect the operations of local airlines to Europe if the safety concerns are not adequately address.

“If we are blacklisted, that means we are disconnecting ourselves from air routes in EU member countries,” says Cusi.

Director Cusi left for Brussels in Belgium Tuesday where he is scheduled to brief Daniel Calleja, Air Transport Director of the European Union, as to what had been achieved by the agency in compliance with their safety concerns, particularly lack of highly trained technical personnel.

He is also scheduled to brief representatives of the US Federal Aviation Authority later this month and request the Geneva based aviation regulators for the lifting of the significant safety concern during the ICAO Aviation Safety Conference which will be held on March 29-31 in Montreal, Canada.

Because of lack of effective implementation by ICAO to monitor SARP compliance, the US IASA Program was established in August 1992 to address the risk that some States were not implementing the required safety standards. Following the assessment, IASA assigns a rating (Category 1 – in compliance; Category 2 – not in compliance;) to the assessed State regarding its level of compliance with the SARPs.

The Philippines was listed twice in Category 2, once in 1995 during the first round of assessment and 12 years later in 2007 when it becomes clear to the US that the Philippine government reneged its promise of compliance agreed 10 years ago.

The Federal Aviation Administration assessed CAAP's predecessor in July 2007 and found serious concerns about the agency's inability to conduct consistent, and effective safety oversight.

Meanwhile, In 1996, EU launched the Safety Assessment of Foreign Aircraft (SAFA) Program to assess compliance with ICAO Standards by ramp inspections of aircraft landing in any of its members. By 2001, EU member States were obliged to "ensure that third-country aircraft suspected of non-compliance with international safety standards landing at any of its airports open to international air traffic [should] be subject to ramp inspections".

On December 14 2005, the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union promulgated Regulation (EC) No. 2111/2005 and established a Community list of air carriers subject to an operating ban within the Community for non-compliance with international safety standards. As of 24 July 2008, 156 airlines were subject to an operational ban within the European Union Airspace.

While the US IASA and EU SAFA findings are sometimes political in nature, the ICAO audit is not and is obligatory which must be complied by the Philippines. Unanimous assessments speaks clearly of the need to addressed the safety concerns.

Both programs however generate an adverse impact against a State economy or any of its airlines, resulting in economic losses for the State's transportation, commerce and tourism. Nevertheless, these programs have encouraged compliance with the Annexes of the Chicago Convention by exposing SARPs deficiencies.

Eduardo Batac, director of the CAAP’s Flight Standard and Inspectorate Service, said that although the Philippines has no direct route to Europe at the moment, there are many European nationals who come to the Philippines as tourists or businessmen who avail of the country’s air transport system and the EU is concerned about their safety.

Batac said if the EU decides to blacklist the Philippines, Philippine Airlines may be refused landing and overflight rights in EU countries.

According to Batac, one of the concerns brought up by the US Federal Aviation Administration, the ICAO and the EU’s Universal Safety Oversight Audit Program is the “inability of the Philippines to recruit and retain qualified technical personnel.”

“In the past some highly trained technical personnel were recruited but left for greener pastures,” he said.

As its first step of redeeming the world aviation standard, the Philippine delegation is set to convince the European Regulators that despite some regulatory issues, its local airlines flying international flights are up to standards with the rest of the world.

“Our delegation will prove that the Philippine aviation system meets safety standards and that the blacklisting is not necessary,” Alfonso Cusi said.

Cusi's delegation includes Director Batac; Efren Rocamora, CAAP commercial air transport chief; Carl de Guzman of the airworthiness department; Batac’s technical assistant, Nestor Pasano; and Cusi’s executive assistant, Teresa Mendoza.

Philippine Airlines is sending senior vice president Beda Badiola, vice president for operations Johnny Andrews, and flight safety head John Steinberg.

Cebu Pacific has sent vice president for flight operations Victor Custodio and chief operations adviser Mark Breen.

Philippine Airlines fleet is maintained by Lufthansa Technik Philippines, a world renowned MRO provider, while its LCC counterpart Cebu Pacific is maintained by Singapore based SIA Engineering. Both boast new aircraft on its fleets.

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