PH may get US aviation upgrade by Oct

An upgrade by the US Federal Aviation Administration will allow local carriers to mount additional flights to the US

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines will likely get an aviation safety status upgrade from the US Federal Aviation Administration (US-FAA) as early as October, allowing local carriers to mount additional flights to the US.

Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) director general retired Gen. William Hotchkiss III said FAA officers are in the country to review safety reforms implemented by CAAP.

He said indicators are pointing to a possible upgrade to Category 2 status. The FAA will release a decision in October.

“That’s in our agreement. There are milestones. It’s the final thing, whether the upgrade will be done or not,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the 1st Aviation Safety and Corporate Governance Symposium on Friday, August 30.

Hotchkiss said FAA officials will visit the country every month for the next 2 years based on the Technical Assistance Services Agreement between CAAP and FAA.

This agreement, he explained, will ensure that aviation safety measures that CAAP established are sustained.

“Even if we get an upgrade before end of the year, we still need their presence to see to it that things are moving towards sustainability,” he said.

The FAA downgraded in 2008 the Philippines’ safety rating to Category 2 from 1 after CAAP failed to comply with safety standards for the oversight of air carrier operations. The downgrade was done upon the recommendation of the United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

The Philippines finally passed ICAO’s audit early this year. This prompted the European Union to lift the ban imposed on the country, allowing legacy carrier Philippine Airlines to enter European airspace again.

Alcohol, drug test

CAAP meanwhile implemented random alcohol and drug testing for flight and crew members of airlines, according to CAAP deputy director-general John Andrews.

“We are slowly instituting a drug test for all crew members in the industry. This will include foreign carriers,” Andrews said.

He said the random testing started last year. “We have been doing it since day one from a year ago for domestic. We are expanding it now for foreign and international.”

CAAP sent formal notices to foreign carriers in June, he noted.

Andrews said so far, no one has tested positive for drug use or alcohol intoxication.

“If the crew member is found to be positive then the airplane is not going to go,” he said.

Andrews said the Philippines is probably the first to implement such a measure.

“It’s a policy that ICAO is thinking about instituting. But nobody seemed to want to do it. And when we informed them that we were already doing it for domestic. They were caught by surprise.” – Rappler.com

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