CAAP sees Philippines getting aviation safety upgrade soon
The Philippines is expecting the US government to make an announcement on the country’s potential aviation safety upgrade within 30 days following the conclusion of an audit last week, a senior government official said Thursday.
Transportation Secretary Joseph Abaya said he expected the results of the inspection, conducted by the US Federal Aviation Administration, to be positive.
The Philippines had long-anticipated an upgrade to Category 1 from its current Category 2 status, which would allow expanded flights of local airlines to the US.
“We should be okay,” Abaya said in a text message yesterday. He, however, declined to elaborate.
The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) said separately that an official announcement would come from the United States Department of State, which oversees foreign relations, and not the FAA.
“We have to wait for the US State Department to release the updates,” John Andrews, deputy director of CAAP, said. He also declined to elaborate.
The FAA downgraded the Philippines from Category 1 to Category 2 status five years ago due to safety concerns.
At present, only Philippine Airlines mounts flights to the US but budget carrier Cebu Pacific Air said it was considering flying to the United States, particularly to Hawaii.
Apart from widening its network, an upgrade means the flag carrier would be allowed to use newer and more efficient planes to fly to the United States as there are certain restrictions in place due to the existing Category 2 status.
Andrews last year said he was confident that the Philippines would get an upgrade.
“There are no more safety issues as far as we are concerned. This has been confirmed by no less than the EU (European Union) and Icao (International Civil Aviation Organization),” Andrews said in a previous interview.
The Philippines passed the Icao assessment early last year, which led to the lifting last July of the ban imposed by the European Union. This allowed Philippine Airlines to fly to certain points in Europe.
Even with an upgrade, the Philippines would still be monitored by the FAA over a two-year period under an agreement signed with the FAA, CAAP director general William Hotchkiss III earlier said.
This means the Philippines could be downgraded again if it would fall below standards during the two-year monitoring period, he said.
The assessments are aimed at determining whether foreign civil aviation authorities are meeting Icao safety standards.
CAAP had expected an upgrade in 2013 but an audit scheduled in the fourth quarter did not push through.
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