Sunday, March 18, 2012

US FAA finds several deficiencies in Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines systems

By Rainier Allan Ronda, The Philippine Star
Posted at 03/19/2012 7:01 AM | Updated as of 03/19/2012 7:01 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) has listed one too many deficiencies in the systems of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) to make them just “minor” as claimed by aviation officials and the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC).

CAAP sources also told The STAR that the level of compliance on critical aviation safety issues such as qualifications and training of CAAP technical personnel conducting aircraft worthiness checks and airline pilot skills tests, the integrity of certificates being issued by CAAP units, as well as its conduct of safety oversight functions, was low and inadequate.

“We hope that the CAAP, if not DOTC Secretary Mar (Manuel) Roxas will be open and transparent on the issue so that the appropriate priority will be given on the effort to make our local civil aviation compliant with international civil aviation safety standards,” a CAAP source said.

The US FAA earlier sent a team to conduct a technical audit on the CAAP last Jan. 23 to 27. The team was led by Jacques Astre, with Greg Michael, operations team member; Andre Lamarre, airworthiness team member; and Bevery Sharkey, lawyer.

The US team was sent upon request of CAAP director-general, retired Air Force colonel Ramon Gutierrez, to conduct a “pre-screening” assessment of the CAAP’s compliance so far on the SARPs set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), prior to an actual international aviation safety assessment of the US FAA.

The Philippine government is intent on regaining Category 1 with the US FAA, which downgraded the country’s aviation industry to Category 2 in December 2007.

The US FAA cited significant safety, oversight and management shortcomings in the downgrade, which meant that Philippine carriers could not get more flights to the US.

The country was then dealt a double whammy when the ICAO raised “significant safety concerns” on the country’s civil aviation systems during an audit conducted under its Universal Oversight Audit Program in 2009, which subsequently led to the Philippines getting placed on the European Union’s blacklist.

In the US FAA technical review report, it was learned that there were numerous deficiencies found, including seemingly minor issues like “numerous wording errors” in the Philippine Civil Aviation Regulations (PCAR) formulated by the CAAP.

The US FAA however said this could render the PCAR “unenforceable.”

There were other “serious matters” also noted such as anomalies in the issuance of operating or compliance certificates to air operators and airworthiness certificates to aircraft owners due to or despite lack of qualified CAAP technical personnel.

The US FAA questioned CAAP inspectors taking free rides on airlines while conducting audit, which it said gave rise to conflict of interest.

“Discussions revealed that inspectors travel on a non-revenue ticket basis at the expense of the operator while performing job functions for the operator. Requiring inspectors to travel on a non-revenue ticket basis at the expense of the operator while performing job functions for the operator presents an obvious conflict of interest,” the US FAA auditors said.

The US FAA also pointed out serious deficiencies in the qualifications and training of CAAP’s inspectors and other critical technical personnel.

It also noted the CAAP’s lack of a system to evaluate the quality of training they are getting for their personnel, casting doubt on the qualifications of these personnel to conduct pilot skill tests and aircraft worthiness checks.

“The CAAP needs to develop a staffing model to determine staffing workforce for its workforce,” the FAA said.

It was also discovered that a minor deficiency found by the US FAA that led to the downgrade of the Philippines to Category II is the lack of a computerized records keeping system, such as a Civil Aviation Safety Reporting and Tracking System (CASORT), and is still lacking up to now years after the creation of CAAP in 2009.

This added to the problem of assessing the qualifications of CAAP’s technical personnel.

“A review of these records revealed record keeping errors that caused confusion, and a lack of hard copies made the records incomplete,” the report said.

“The records provided were confusing in that they did not clearly differentiate between training provided by the CAAP and training provided by sources prior to employment by CAAP. Without hard-copy records, the CASORT system data alone would have given the false impression that inspectors were not qualified,” it said.

In one check they conducted on the aircraft worthiness audit capabilities of CAAP personnel, they noted that the inspectors were issuing rating and limitations on a CAAP-approved aircraft maintenance organization (AMO), despite having no training on the aircraft worthiness check.

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