Paper blasts disarray stalling air safety review

Paper blasts disarray stalling air safety review

Aviation authority 'slow and disobedient'

The prime minister's special committee to resolve aviation safety says the problem is permanent bureaucrats who are
The prime minister's special committee to resolve aviation safety says the problem is permanent bureaucrats who are "slow and disobedient". (File photo)

A lack of leadership, unity and discipline is responsible for the Thai aviation regulator's failure to address the industry's woes, according to a document by the Command Centre for Resolving Civil Aviation Issues.

The command centre, headed by air force commander-in-chief Tritos Sonchaeng, was set up by the government after the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) red-flagged Thailand in June over safety concerns.

The red flag was raised after Thailand failed to meet a 90-day deadline to improve safety concerns raised by the ICAO.

The document, presented at a recent meeting of the command centre, criticised the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT), which replaced the now-defunct Department of Civil Aviation, for slow progress in addressing the problems.

A source familiar with the matter said the CAAT also has failed to seek the cooperation within the state sector required to solve the problems and has not committed itself to the problem-solving process.

The agency has also disobeyed instructions issued by the command centre, concealed information and provided false information, the source said.

The command centre has made a five-point proposal to the government in the report, the source said.

It seeks authority over the CAAT and wants the agency to be required to secure approval from the command centre before proceeding with any plans.

It also demands that Transport Ministry executives cooperate with the CAAT, and they appoint a project manager authorised to make decisions on issues being addressed.

The CAAT is headed by Chula Sukmanop, also the director-general of the Department of Airports.

A Transport Ministry source claimed certain airline operators had lobbied the government to replace Mr Chula with a member of the air force's personnel.

A source at Government House said the government is aware of the problems raised by the command centre, but does not at present have any plans to send in air force staff.

Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith has denied any air force staff will be transferred to work at the CAAT for the time being to help with the aviation challenge, even though it is currently recruiting staff.

He said Mr Chula was appointed head of the CAAT to ensure that its work addressing the ICAO's safety concerns is the authority's top priority and is not disrupted.

Mr Chula said the CAAT is intended to be an independent aviation regulatory body.

Meanwhile, Thai Airways International (THAI) has obtained a third-country operator certificate from the European Union (EU) and has secured permission to fly to 11 destinations in the bloc.

THAI president Charamporn Jotikasthira said European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) officials had checked the national airline's safety records on Nov 12 and Nov 13 and it had categorised THAI as a third-country operator (TCO).

The certification took effect on Dec 15 and means the airline can fly to EU countries until further notice, he said.

The EU started to issue TCO certification to non-EU airlines this year, and any non-EU airlines without this status will be barred from flying to the EU from November next year onwards, Mr Charamporn said.

He said THAI had maintained high standards and had implemented its Safety Beyond Compliance project in May.

The project sought to upgrade the flag carrier's safety standards to the highest international level, he said.

THAI currently operates flights to 11 European destinations -- Brussels, Copenhagen, Frankfurt, London, Milan, Munich, Oslo, Paris, Rome, Stockholm and Zurich. 

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