Carole Shifrin MIAMI

The US Federal Aviation Administration has signalled forthcoming changes in its controversial international aviation safety assessment (IASA) programme, but not enough to make carriers suffering under the programme any happier.

Nicholas Lacey, director of the FAA's Flight Standards Service, says the agency expects to place increasing reliance on the International Civil Aviation Organisation's (ICAO) recently launched universal safety oversight audit programme, eventually reducing the number of safety audits the USA conducts alone.

In remarks to the Aviation Latin American & Caribbean Airline chief executives conference in Miami, Florida, last month, Lacey said the FAA will continue, in the short term, to do its own assessments, but hoped to use ICAO audit reports in the future to make these determinations, allowing reduced reliance on on-site visits by FAA teams.

Under the IASA programme, FAA teams assess countries which have airlines operating to the USA to determine if they comply with ICAO's safety oversight standards. Countries not meeting ICAO standards are ranked in Category 2, which limits their carriers' operations to the USA, or Cat 3, which prohibits their carriers from operating to the USA.

The programme has been unpopular in Latin America and the Caribbean. Restrictions on the Latin carriers have coincided with an expansion by US airlines, putting the Latins at a disadvantage.

Lacey and Tony Kijek, manager of Flight Standards' international field office in Miami, say the FAA will soon meld the three categories into two ("in compliance" or "not in compliance") and set up a schedule for periodic review of ratings. The FAA plans to reduce direct, hands-on technical assistance it offers countries to address safety oversight issues.

Source: Airline Business