03 Feb “Red flag” audit helps Thailand to achieve a new level in aviation safety.
In 2015, Thailand’s aviation safety standard was evaluated by several aviation safety audit schemes. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) was the first organisation that audited the Thai Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) as part of its Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP) in January 2015. This programme is intended to ensure a consistent global standard for aviation safety and the civil aviation authorities of ICAO member states. Following the audit, ICAO listed Thailand as a “Red Flag” country over what it sees as Significant Safety Concerns (SSC) within the country’s aviation sector.
The red flag audit
The SSC status does not necessarily indicate a particular safety deficiency in the Thai air navigation service providers, Thai airlines, Thai registry aircraft or aerodrome; but, rather, indicates that the state is not providing sufficient safety oversight to ensure the effective implementation of applicable ICAO Standards. Although specific information about the SSC was not made public, the red flag was hoisted over the area of operation.
After USOAP, U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) audited Thai aviation safety and announced in December 2015 that Thailand did not comply ICAO safety standards and has been assigned a “Category 2 rating” based on a reassessment of the country’s civil aviation authority.
What is the impact of the Thailand’s lowered safety rating?
With a Category 2 rating, Thailand’s carriers can continue existing service to the United States but they will not be allowed to establish new services. The direct effect on Thai carriers is limited, since currently there are no Thai carriers operating on routes to and from the US. The same holds true for the direct impact on passengers, they already travel to Thailand via alternative airlines.
Although the audit’s results may have limited direct impact on Thai aviation industry, it may affect the image of the country as well as the competitiveness of airlines through several factors such as the higher insurance premium or not being able to increase service frequency on existing routes nor compete on new international routes.
Will it have further impact on Thai-registered airlines?
The last safety audit of individual Thai airlines was carried out, also in 2015, by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). The EASA stated that individual Thai-registered airlines meet their aviation safety standards. This would mean there will be no additional impact for individual airlines. This positive result has lifted confidence from other countries somewhat over Thai aviation safety standards.
Direct actions by the Thai Department of Civil Aviation
In response to the audit results the DCA has taken the matters very seriously, this resulted in major changes in three areas, namely laws and regulations, organisation, and personnel. The Government has passed several laws and regulations to support the new organisations that will be established. The former DCA was reorganised and divided into three organisations to separate the functions:
- the new aviation regulator: the “Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand” (CAAT);
- airport operations are the responsibility of: the “Department of Airports”;
- search and rescue operations now reside directly under the Ministry of Transport’s Office of the Permanent Secretary.
One of the early actions that was already taken by CAAT in “Air Operator Certificate Recertification” or “AOC Recertification”. All 41 air operators currently operating in Thailand were required to be recertified and inspected by the CAAT to ensure that all air operators in Thailand strictly complied with the aviation safety standards and recommended practices of ICAO.
Although it has been a difficult year, the red flag from ICAO and the downgrade by the FAA lead to the new chapter of Thai aviation industry. Several actions have been undertaken by both public and private sectors that have been working together closely in order to improve the aviation safety standards and to restore the confidence to the Thai aviation industry. We applaud the progress made in such a short period of time; ‘Thailand is a good example for other countries that are aiming at improving aviation safety standards’.
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