MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – The Philippines failed to get a much-coveted aviation rating upgrade from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which still found the country “unsafe” in a recent audit, industry sources said.
This means Philippine carriers are still banned from opening new routes or mounting additional flights to the US.
In January, an FAA team visited the country to review compliance of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) with international safety standards, and gave an unfavorable 5-page report, CAAP insiders said.
A copy of the report obtained from the sources showed CAAP did not comply with several requirements, retaining its Category 2 status and failing to move up to the Category 1 list.
CAAP has been working on getting the upgrade for 6 years now. It was confident it was going to get the upgrade last month, with Deputy Director-General John Andrews saying he’d resign if they didn’t.
The FAA downgraded CAAP’s safety rating in 2008 upon the recommendation of the United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). At the time, ICAO found “significant concerns” over CAAP’s ability to meet international safety standards.
Under Category 2, Philippine carriers may continue existing flights to the US, but they cannot launch new routes or additional flights. Category 2 also puts them under heightened surveillance.
Following the US downgrade, the European Union also imposed a ban on Philippine carriers in 2010 due to the same safety concerns.
But last year, ICAO gave the Philippines a passing mark in its audit, while the EU allowed legacy carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) to fly to the 28-nation bloc again.
The US status is the only remaining negative rating against the country.
The FAA is expected to announce its latest findings in Washington soon.
CAAP sources said the regulator failed to pass in 4 of “8 critical elements” that the FAA has been monitoring for “safety oversight” compliance by civil aviation authorities of ICAO-member countries.
FAA rules require that the aviation authorities hurdle all 8 elements to be upgraded to Category 1 status.
The 4 elements where there were findings against CAAP include:
- Primary Aviation Legislation
- Technical personnel qualification and training
- Technical guidance, tools and provision of safety critical information
- Licensing, certification, authorization and approval obligations
Among the findings in the FAA report were:
- CAAP has not complied with the Article of the Chicago Convention with regard to Amendment 37 to Annex 6 part 1 issued March 28, 2013 related to approach ban provision.
- The CAAP Airmen Examination Board personnel are not trained to prepare, administer and evaluate written theoretical examination. Records indicate that only 1 out of 9 employees has four initial trainings. There is no evidence of having correct training in almost all of Caap’s development course. None has completed the formal training policy and programs for operations and Airworthiness Inspectors does not include sufficient on the job training.
- CAAP Airworthiness Technical Guidance does not contain complete policies, procedures and standards.
One of the sources said, “Most of the FAA findings are doable, but nobody in CAAP is actually doing the actual work to conform with regulations.”
The FAA review was conducted from January 20 to 24 by a team of 5 people, led by Gregory Michael, head of Flight Standards District Office of FAA.
The exit interview on January 24 was reportedly attended by top CAAP officials, including Andrews and head of Flight Safety Inspectorate Service Beda Badiola.
Andrews is on leave and will report back for work on February 17. Director-General William Hotchkiss, on the other hand, is attending the Singapore Air Show 2014.
Andrews declined to comment on the FAA report, but he said someone was trying to discredit the efforts of the agency.
He added officials are still confident of getting an upgrade. “We are optimistic this is positive.”
In a phone interview, CAAP chief financial officer Rodante Joya also declined to confirm whether or not the Philippines got the upgrade.
He said, “It is the FAA that will announce that in Washington. We have not received any official communication if we failed or passed the review.”
Joya said the FAA is expected to make the announcement “65 days from the last day of the audit.”
In November, Andrews said he was confident the country would finally win an upgrade from US authorities this year.
“If it does not happen, the buck stops at me. If this does not happen… I will no longer be here. That is my commitment,” he said then.
Andrews drew confidence from ICAO’s move in February to give the Philippines a passing mark, as well as the EU’s decision to lift its ban.
Sources said the FAA will return in March for another CAAP audit.
Philippine carriers are banking on the upgrade as they plan on expanding in the US.
Currently, only PAL is allowed to fly to the US. Budget carrier Cebu Pacific has expressed desire to operate the lucrative route.