The International Civil Aviation Organisation will start auditing states on 1 January 2004, to confirm that all airports comply with just- announced ICAO licensing criteria.

Speaking at the Airports Council International Europe (ACIE) Airport Safety Conference in Prague, Czech Republic, on 27 November, ICAO's regional air navigationsystems implementation officer Gunnar Emausson explained that the new procedures for airports are designed to emulate the success of the Organisation's Universal Safety Oversight Audit Process for airline safety standards.

A compulsory international licensing standard for airports is a new departure, the result of the adoption last month of a complete rewrite of Annex 14 - the ICAO treaty annex dealing with airport operations.

States have little time to get their airports in order - international airports will have to prove compliance with the new regulations by 27 November 2003. Domestic airports have two more years to comply.

ACIE president Claudio Boccardo says he welcomes the application of universal standards. "Annex 14 will be promoted within ACIE," he says, adding: "If ACIE does not promote this culture, [airports] will never be successful in this [European] environment."

Not only has Annex 14 been made far more prescriptive in its requirements for on-airport safety and operational standards, but much of it has been made compulsory for the first time rather than advisory.

The ICAO move comes at a time when the Joint Aviation Authorities is drawing up the first standard European requirements (JARs) for airports to supplement the now complete JARs relating to aircraft airworthiness and aircraft operational standards. Annex 14 sets standards, for example, for minimum firefighting responses and rescue times, and Emausson says that will mean "substantial efforts" to improve the capabilities at many airports.

Source: Flight International