Prajin raises alarm as aviation watchdog rejects DCA remedy

Prajin raises alarm as aviation watchdog rejects DCA remedy

Transport Minister Prajin Junthong, former head of the Royal Thai Air Force: New committees will be formed.
Transport Minister Prajin Junthong, former head of the Royal Thai Air Force: New committees will be formed.

Transport Minister Prajin Juntong has called an urgent meeting on Wednesday with state authorities after the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) rejected a corrective action plan submitted by the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) in response to its recent safety concerns.

The plan was submitted after the ICAO detected "significant safety concerns" in a recent audit of the department's operation standards.

A key reason the ICAO cited to reject the department's's action plan is its two-year time frame of implementation, a source said yesterday.

The ICAO indicated the proper time frame should be between eight and nine months.

The source said he was optimistic the changes could be made in the shortened time frame as the country is now under the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), which means that laws needed to improve the DCA's standards can be pushed through more swiftly.

The Prayut Chan-o-cha government also appears to be the first to have paid enough attention to the DCA issue, he said.

"This issue has gone untouched for decades and no previous governments have ever regarded it as an important matter," said the source.

"Problems have been piling up over time and their impacts on aviation safety standards have only recently been documented," he added.

The ICAO specified the safety concerns it found in the past audit dealt mainly with air operator certification, issuing of operation specifications and hazardous goods transportation certification, he said.

The DCA responded to the organisation's concerns by drafting the action plan.

It submitted the report to the ICAO on March 2 but the ICAO still thought the plan needed revision, said the minister.

The roles of the organisation responsible for directing the DCA, and the agency which provides services were kept separate in the plan, said ACM Prajin.

Also included in the plan are the formation of new committees in charge of directing airports' operations, overseeing legal matters, improving personnel training and handling licence inspection procedures, he said.

Most recently, the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB) announced it would not allow new chartered and scheduled flights operated by Thai-registered airlines into Japan, a move seen as a reaction to the ICAO's concerns expressed over the DCA's standards. 

DCA chief Somchai Phiphutthawat said airlines affected by the announcement included Thai Airways International, AirAsia X, NokScoot and Asia Atlantic.

The DCA travelled to Japan last Thursday to give the JCAB more information on Thai airlines' safety standards and the progress of the department's efforts to comply with the ICAO's standards, he said.

Although the ban may not affect currently operating flights, chartered or scheduled, it may affect requests for increases in numbers during the Songkran festival when there is usually a surge in demand for flights to destinations in South Korea and China, said the source.

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