PH closer to attaining coveted status

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07:54 PM July 14th, 2013

By: Paolo G. Montecillo, July 14th, 2013 07:54 PM

The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) is confident that the ban on local carriers that wish to expand in the United States will finally be lifted this year.

The government has stepped up efforts to professionalize and clean up the CAAP and the local air industry.

Last week, a two-man inspection team from the United States arrived in the country.

“They were supposed to stay here for two weeks, but they just stayed for five days,” CAAP Director General William Hotchkiss III told reporters during the induction ceremonies for new officers of the Rural Bankers’ Association of the Philippines. “That means they didn’t see anything else (that concerned them).”

In August, the head of the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will visit the country in an official capacity. Hotchkiss hopes that FAA chief Michael Huerta will finally recommend the upgrade of the country to category 1 status.

The FAA currently classifies the Philippines as a “category 2” country, which bars local airlines from expanding flights to the United States. Existing flights, particularly Philippine Airlines’ (PAL) daily services to San Francisco and Los Angeles in California, are allowed to continue.

By regaining the category 1, the country’s airlines may expand US operations. The lifting of the ban will also allow PAL to use its newer, more fuel-efficient planes for flights to the United States.

Hotchkiss said the two FAA inspectors noted some minor issues, but added that all major concerns had already been addressed.

“We’re positive that, before the end of the year, we’ll get the upgrade,” Hotchkiss said.

Last week, the European Air Safety Agency lifted the ban on Philippine carriers flying into European airspace after it noted improvements in the government’s safety oversight capabilities for the industry.

Hotchkiss said he considered the EASA ban to be a bigger challenge because it was based on the findings of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which has stricter rules on safety.

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