Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Philippines: No Category 1 rating this February?

Spy Bits received unconfirmed reports that the Philippines will not be getting the Category 1 rating upgrade from the FAA this February as anticipated. According to inside sources, the recent audit conducted by a team from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) found the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) still non-compliant with regard to the “critical elements” under the checklist of safety requirements that FAA had been monitoring.

This is definitely contrary to CAAP’s earlier statements that the lifting of the Category 2 status was “all but certain” since “there are no more safety issues” as far as CAAP was concerned. According to a report from Journal Online, the CAAP leadership is allegedly desperate to keep this embarrassing development from being disclosed to the media and the public, noting that unlike the previous exit briefings, only three top officials were present when the bad news was delivered by the team of Gregory Michaels, head of Flight Safety Service.

Inside sources tell us, “primary aviation legislation” was one critical element that the CAAP reportedly failed in, specifically with regard to “Article No. 37 of the Chicago Convention (that) requires States to adopt international standards and procedures.” Other “findings” reportedly include procedural issues, insufficient on-the-job training for operations and airworthiness inspectors; incomplete recurrent training for operations inspectors in all areas and other technical qualifications for personnel.

It’s been close to six years since the Philippines was slapped with a Category 2 rating downgrade, and many have been hoping that the safety issues should have been addressed by this time considering that the CAAP was created primarily to address the FAA findings and lift our status back to Category 1.  This piece of news will certainly impact the expansion plans of Philippine Airlines to the United States. PAL had embarked on an ambitious re-fleeting program, ordering six Boeing 777 and 64 Airbus aircraft amounting to about $9.5 billion for delivery in the next six years. Several of the Airbus aircraft and five of the 777s have been delivered, but PAL has not been able to use these aircraft for US routes – which is the biggest and most lucrative market for the country’s carrier.

Filipino-Americans have been rooting for the Philippines to get back its Category 1 status, and are strongly lobbying for PAL since they have been looking forward to flying in the flag carrier’s new aircraft – many of them complaining that the seats on the old planes no longer recline properly, and half the time the movies and audio from the inflight entertainment program are out of order.

Definitely, CAAP has to step up to get the country’s aviation industry soaring. We seem to remember the President giving the agency a one-year ultimatum. If it is indeed true that we have failed in our bid to get the Category 2 status lifted once again, will this mean CAAP once again will be “reorganized”? Is this the reason why deputy director general John Andrews reportedly went on leave early this February? The flying public wants some answers.

Story and comments/reaction:  http://www.philstar.com

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