Graham Warwick/Miami

THE US FEDERAL Aviation Administration is defending its International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) programme against criticism that it constitutes the implementation of punitive action against airlines in countries judged not to comply fully with international safety-oversight standards.

The FAA has recently added Ecuador, Israel, Jordan, Peru and Venezuela to the list of countries which it found not to be in full compliance with safety-oversight standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

Of 50 countries evaluated so far under the IASA programme, 24 have been judged deficient: bilateral air-service agreements with 11 "Category 3" countries have been terminated; and bilaterals with a further 13 "Category 2" nations have been frozen while they work to correct their deficiencies.

FAA associate administrator for regulation Tony Broderick faced tough criticism of the IASA programme at the SH&E/Airline Business conference on Latin American aviation in Miami on 1-3 November. Of the countries labeled Category 2 by the FAA, nine are in Latin America and the Caribbean, with Colombia expecting to be added before the end of 1995.

Broderick describes Cat 2 conditional approval as an "unusual example of reasonableness" and implies that a country's safety oversight is adequate if augmented by FAA aircraft checks at US airports. "Cat 2 is a notice that a country is expected to fix the deficiencies identified," he says.

Latin American airlines, battered by competition from US carriers, fear the economic impact of a Cat 2 rating. Rene Marquez, safety director for Colombia's Avianca, warns that "the entire invalidation of a country's air-transport industry through IASA" will lead to confrontation. He calls for safety assessments of individual airlines and says that the IASA programme "...must be free of any shadow of a hidden political agenda or intended economic advantage to US carriers."

Broderick says that the evaluation assesses a country's compliance with International Civil Aviation Organisation, rather than FAA, standards and that it is a government's responsibility, not that of an airline, to provide adequate safety oversight. "What would the incentive be for governments to live up to their responsibilities if we audited airlines?" he asks.

The Israeli civil aviation authority says that it has had its Cat 1 classification restored by the FAA. Menachem Sharon, director-general of Israel's CAA, says that the immediate restoration of the highest category proves that the problem was in the procedures, not with the level of inspection. "We have accepted all remarks and acted very fast to satisfy FAA demands," he says.

Source: Flight International