Air regulator downplays possible Thai airline blacklisting
text size

Air regulator downplays possible Thai airline blacklisting

The head of the Department of Civil Aviation Tuesday downplayed a report that a United Nations’ aviation agency may downgrade Thailand’s air-safety rating, acknowledging there were some problems, but saying any issues would be quickly addressed.

Somchai Piputvat, director-general of the department, was responding to a Post Today report quoting airline sources as saying the International Civil Aviation Organisation was likely to downgrade the air-safety rating of Thailand's civil-aviation system, which could prompt other countries to block Thai-registered airlines from their airspace.

Although international aviation authorities may be concerned, the Department of Civil Aviation insists on its air safety standard. (Photo by Panumas Sanguanwong)

Icao, according to sources, expressed serious safety concerns following a Jan 19-30 inspection of Thai aviation facilities. In particular, the UN agency was concerned that Thailand's civil-aviation department did not send its personnel to Icao-sanctioned training on specific aviation standards but nonetheless issued licences covering such standards.

Mr Somchai said his department had issued safety licences for 10 airlines operating international flights, 10 domestic and chartered airlines, and one cargo carrier. It also checked the safety standard of other relevant operators including Aeronautical Radio of Thailand Co, Airports of Thailand Plc, hangar operators and agencies responsible for aviation training.

Icao is scheduled to release a private report to Thai authorities within days. Officials will have 15 days to respond. The agency then will acknowledge the proposed solutions and, if Thailand fails to resolve issues of concern, Icao will publish the matter on its public website at the end of May, Mr Somchai said.

He noted that, no matter what happens, Icao does not have direct authority to ban Thai carriers from foreign airspace.

Icao's recommendations, however, carry tremendous weight. In the past 10 years, Icao safety downgrades have led to the European Union temporarily banning all Indonesian carriers from European airspace and the US blacklisting Philippine airlines from US skies.

Mr Somchai said Icao might have reservations about air-safety standard in Thailand, but insisted that his department has high standards of aviation certification. He confirmed that all licenced carriers met the department's standards.

Icao, he said, also might be concerned about the role of the Department of Civil Aviation, as it acts both as aviation regulator and operator of 28 regional airports. Those dual roles, he speculated, might represent a conflict of interest.

He added another concern might be over the small size of the department's workforce and limited remuneration for personnel.

He admitted that he believes the department's regulatory and operating roles should be separated. However, that would be difficult for his department as other operators, such as the Airports of Thailand, would not be interested in running some money-losing regional airports that remained open for public and security reasons.

Do you like the content of this article?