Monday, October 13, 2008

RP to build aviation library for FAA compliance

THE Philippines will build a library for the airline industry as part of efforts being made to convince the US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) that the country deserves Category 1 status.
Secretary Leandro Mendoza of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) said that Malacanang has approved at least P80 million to construct the library.
The FAA has concerns about the library as the Americans want all activities of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) nationwide computerized. “And we’re doing this right now,” Mendoza told reporters.
The library will contain all information the CAAP needs to function properly in doing its job.
Mendoza said the library will contain data on airline companies, crewmembers, as well as periodic maintenance checkups and which aircraft needs period upgrades.
“We have a record of each airplane that includes its airworthiness and number of flying hours,” Mendoza said.
All information the FAA wants “should be contained in an infrastructure or machine that we can access immediately” through the library, he added.
The library would be completed next year, or at the same time flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) would have expanded its fleet.
PAL is waiting for the delivery of two new Boeing 777 planes that are expected to arrive in September 2009. The planes will be used for medium- and long-haul flights. PAL is expected to expand flights to some parts of the US and Europe next year.
The lack of a Category 1 status has impacted on PAL’s expansion plans.
“But we are confident that upon the arrival of PAL’s 777s, we are already upgraded,” Mendoza said.
PAL was supposed to increase flights to the US and its territories early this year but the FAA downgraded the Philippines into Category 2 status that barred the flag carrier from increasing its 33 flights a week and from changing the type and adding aircraft on these routes.
Since January, officials have been hard at work in trying to regain the coveted Category 1 status. They decided not to rush things and targeted compliance with the FAA later this year. It was then decided that the Philippines would have a better chance at meeting FAA standards next year.
The FAA required the Philippines to revamp its system of regulation and for the country to write its own civil aviation law, which lawmakers have already passed. The implementing rules and regulations of the said law have already been published in major newspapers last week. That meant that the new CAAP would soon be fully activated.
The CAAP was created after the FAA downgraded the Philippines last year to Category 2 on safety concerns.
The CAAP aims to establish a regulatory framework for maintaining, enhancing and promoting domestic and international civil aviation, with particular emphasis on aviation safety and security.
The new law that created the CAAP converted the Air Transportation Office into an autonomous body with quasilegislative and quasijudicial powers while possessing corporate attributes. It will be an attached agency of the DOTC.
Category 1 status is given to countries where civil aviation authorities give licenses to and oversee air carriers in accordance with the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (Icao) aviation safety standards.
Category 2, on the other hand, means a country’s aviation authorities do not exercise safety oversight over airlines in accordance with the minimum safety oversight standards of Icao.
Flaws the FAA found during a safety audit from July 23 to 27 last year include lack of record-keeping, poor and aged equipment and problematic procedures for the licensing and certification of aircraft, airlines and pilots and inspectors.
Philippine officials claimed that the country has already complied with nearly all the requirements asked by US authorities.

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