'Almost all' ICAO safety issues fixed

'Almost all' ICAO safety issues fixed

Thailand has now dealt with almost all safety concerns raised during an audit by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) last July, Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT) chief Chula Sukmanop said Wednesday.

The director-general made the comments after a civil aviation committee meeting, chaired by Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith.

Mr Chula said the CAAT Wednesday submitted formal documents with the ministry saying "most" of the 49 safety-related issues raised by the ICAO have been dealt with.

"The ICAO informed us last year that while these issues are insignificant, they can be improved to better fit the organisation's standards," he said.

"We promised to deal with them, and acting on these promises will ensure our safety policies will be internationally-accepted."

According to Mr Chula, these issues mostly involved upping airport safety personnel at airports. Presently such personnel -- mainly in charge of baggage inspection for weapons and other potentially-dangerous items -- only number "a few thousand", he added.

After last year's audit, the ICAO recommended Thailand urgently increase the number of safety workers nationwide to prevent current staff from being overworked.

The organisation lifted its red-flag on the country last October, following a later audit in September the same year. Thailand was red-flagged in June 2015 after several unaddressed safety concerns and organisational issues were found in its aviation industry. It prohibited Thailand-based airlines from establishing new international routes.

The ICAO's latest audit states the country is ranked below the global average in all of the organisation's eight effective implementation categories.

The United States' Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) still keeps Thailand at Category 2 status, where it has stood since December 2015, soon after ICAO's red flag was imposed. The FAA said Thailand also fell short of its standards, which included pilot qualifications.

Mr Chula said Wednesday the CAAT is trying to organise a date for the FAA to conduct an audit. According to him, new safety changes based on the ICAO's suggestions will "play an important role" in regaining Category 1 status with the FAA.

In a related development, the Transport Ministry's civil aviation committee has approved a request by the CAAT to ease specifications for planes eligible for air cargo transport.

At presentl, aircraft which can be considered for cargo transport licences must be no more than 18 years old.

Mr Chula said Wednesday new specifications, once adopted by the ministry, will allow operators of aircraft which have been used for a maximum of 22 years to apply for licences.

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