Prayut wants swift end to aviation woes

Prayut wants swift end to aviation woes

Transport works out new open sky policy

The prime minister has given his top deputy premier two weeks to fix the problems with airline safety and satisfy all world standards.
The prime minister has given his top deputy premier two weeks to fix the problems with airline safety and satisfy all world standards.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha wants the aviation safety standard problems facing the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) to be fixed within a fortnight, his deputy said Thursday.

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, in his capacity as chairman of the government's strategic steering committee, was speaking after chairing a meeting on the problems raised by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) with the DCA.

In response to the DCA's failure to meet a 90-day deadline to correct shortcomings earlier identified by the ICAO, Thailand received a red flag on June 18.

Gen Prawit said a command centre was set up recently to cooperate with the Transport Ministry in fixing the problems.

The shortcomings identified by the ICAO during an audit of the DCA earlier this year centred on the department's failures to meet aviation safety standards in regard to regulating aviation businesses and granting air operator certificates. 

There was also a lack of sufficient oversight to ensure effective implementation of ICAO standards, the organisation said after its audit.

The new centre is headed by air force chief ACM Treetos Sonjaeng, Gen Prawit said.

The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) aimed to solve these problems once and for all with the help of the air force, Gen Prawit said. He did not give further details on what the air force is expected to do.

In related news, the Transport Ministry is expected to wrap up drafting a new aviation policy called "Open Sky with Conditions" and seek cabinet approval for the draft by the end of next month.

When the new aviation policy is implemented, a new system of managing air traffic will be adopted to re-regulate flight schedules so airports can accommodate the growing number of flights landing and taking off, said Woradech Hanprasert, deputy transport permanent secretary.

Thailand will keep its open sky policy but direct and regular commercial flights will get priority over irregular chartered flights.

This is so the number of flights does not overload Thai skies, he said.

"Currently, flight schedules are limited and we are managing to respond to every request to land and take off at airports. Each year, about 700,000 flights land in Thailand. The number is expected to rise to 1 million next year," Mr Woradech said.

To handle this, open sky policy implementation will be divided into three phases, he said.

In the short-term plan from this year until next year, the Airports of Thailand (AoT) and the Aeronautical Radio of Thailand will work on re-arranging flight schedules, he said.

The Transport Ministry also will work with the air force on the ministry's plan to ask for permission to use more military air space for commercial purposes, he said.

In the middle-term plan between 2017 and 2019, the AoT will consider increasing the number of aprons, runways and air bridges at its airports, he said.

As for the long term plan from 2020 until 2024, the AoT will develop and expand its main airports such as Suvarnabhumi, Don Mueang and Phuket, he said.

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