Air safety plan won't be ready until 2022

Air safety plan won't be ready until 2022

Deadline dovetails with UN watchdog

Thai Airways International's Flight TG679 from Guangzhou ploughed off the Suvarnabhumi runway on Monday night after landing in heavy rain. (Photo via Twitter/@AeroChapter)
Thai Airways International's Flight TG679 from Guangzhou ploughed off the Suvarnabhumi runway on Monday night after landing in heavy rain. (Photo via Twitter/@AeroChapter)

Air transport officials of the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT) said Tuesday they will have an official air safety master plan, but not before 2022.

The 2022 deadline for the air safety plan was revealed Tuesday. The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has been monitoring the Thai authority closely to ensure it comes up with measures to reduce risk.

This news coincided with the "excursion" off the Suvarnabhumi airport runway late Monday of a Thai Airways International 747 with 115 people aboard.

Stuck in mud off the runway, the Boeing jumbo jet blocked and delayed at least 179 arriving and 264 departing flights until it was finally hauled back onto blocked runway 19/17 at 2.30pm Tuesday, and the area was cleared for normal airport traffic.

An official report by the Aeronautical Radio of Thailand Ltd on the incident said five other flights had to be re-routed away from Bangkok because of the heavy traffic.

Video of the retrieval of the mired 747 has gone viral on social media.

CAAT director-general Chula Sukmanop announced the deadline for the safety plan after the aviation authority's fifth meeting of the year on Tuesday. He said the authority had floated the idea among government officials and airlines in preparation for mandatory safety policies to be enforced.

The ICAO, the United Nations aviation watchdog, is developing a 2020-2022 global safety plan for civil aviation. Mr Chula said Thailand must adhere to it in full.

Mr Chula said the Thai master plan will feature new performance indexes that air operators must satisfy and will apply to all aviation authorities in the country including Aeronautical Radio of Thailand Ltd, the state-run air traffic operator.

One key addition will be that authorities must immediately inform the CAAT of any mistakes they make, or face penalties. Mr Chula said this is designed to pre-empt cases of negligence that could lead to accidents.

"We're holding talks with authorities concerned as it could take a while to get the law changed," he said. "Next month we will hold another meeting to discuss matters in greater detail and talk about what new standards the CAAT will observe."

At present, the CAAT adhered to its National Civil Aviation Security Programme, which was last updated in 2016. This requires aircraft operators to submit their security measures to the CAAT for approval. Aircraft businesses must at present abide by the Air Navigation Act BE 2497 (1954).

The act contains penalties for safety violations, such as a failure to submit a journey logbook, or submitting an incomplete logbook to the CAAT. In such cases, the air operator would be fined up to 80,000 baht, face a maximum jail sentence of two years, or both.

"These policies are quite outdated. We need to make changes to conform with the internationally accepted ICAO standards," Mr Chula said.

The ICAO red-flagged Thailand in June 2015 after it uncovered safety concerns and organisational issues in the country's aviation industry. It prohibited Thai airlines from establishing new international routes.

It lifted the status in October 2017 after an ICAO audit was conducted on Thailand the previous month.

The ICAO's latest audit shows the country ranks below the global average in all eight effective implementation categories.

The United States' Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has given Thailand Category 2 status since December 2015, shortly after the ICAO imposed its red flag.

The FAA said the country has fallen short in terms of various international standards, for example pilot qualifications.


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