FAA Finds Philippine Aviation Standards Lacking

By TERESA CEROJANO | March 21, 2012

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has found lingering deficiencies in Philippine air safety standards despite the country’s efforts to fix the problems.

Unqualified personnel inspect aircraft and airport facilities, inspectors accept free rides on the same airlines they are checking and airlines receive certification despite failing to meet requirements, according to a report summary made available to The Associated Press.

Safety and management concerns led the U.S. aviation watchdog to downgrade the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines in 2007 and limit U.S.-bound flights from the Philippines. In 2010, the European Union also blacklisted Philippine carriers.

Transportation and Communications Secretary Mar Roxas said Tuesday the government will take measures to address the deficiencies. He acknowledged that the FAA findings will adversely affect the Philippine airline industry and may discourage tourists.

“We will make an assessment and develop a course of action to address the deficiencies cited in the FAA report,” Roxas said. “We will implement a zero-tolerance policy for defects whether it is on personnel or equipment.”

A team from the Philippine aviation authority is set to visit Washington in mid-April to present an action plan to address the more than 20 issues mentioned in the FAA report following the technical review in January.

That visit as well as the January review are a prelude to the still unscheduled audit by the FAA.

Roxas told reporters that it may take some time before Philippines air carriers could once again be allowed to fly to the U.S. without restrictions on operations or heightened FAA surveillance.

Airline industry leaders have urged the government to work more aggressively on getting this status back so they could add flights to the U.S. and Europe – lucrative routes plied by thousands of overseas Filipino workers each day.

CAAP deputy chief John Andrews said the Philippine aviation agency was developing in-house training modules and manuals to standardize training for inspectors. The CAAP board will abolish the practice of free rides for inspectors, he said.

He said the FAA welcomed the Philippines’ move toward computer-based surveillance and its efforts to meet FAA guidelines on critical elements of air safety oversight. These include fielding qualified inspectors and strengthening regulations, licensing and certification.

The FAA recommended that inspectors complete a standardized training program and called for a budget to remove free rides. It says that certificates issued to two local carriers should be revalidated and inspectors trained on the importance of enforcement.

It also called for putting in place civil penalty sanctions and an amendment to the country’s civil aviation law to allow local carriers to lease foreign aircraft.

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