Israel's Government is preparing to implement a set of recommendations from the US FAA in a bid to avert a risk of the country's being reclassified as non-compliant with ICAO standards.

The FAA's International Aviation Safety Assessment scheme classifies states as Category 1 if their safety oversight is considered compliant with ICAO, and Category 2 otherwise.

US FAA officials have been in recent consultation with the Israeli Government, a spokesman for the FAA confirms: "Certainly within the last two or three weeks we've had people there."

While the US authority has not disclosed details of its involvement, a statement from the Israeli transport ministry in Jerusalem indicates that Israel's Category 1 status is under threat, and that the FAA has issued a report detailing a set of safety recommendations.

"The report's recommendations are being studied in depth and any other shortcomings dealt with, so that the state of Israel will retain Category 1 rating in the International Aviation Safety Assessment," says the ministry.

"All the issues raised in the report have already been incorporated into the [Israeli civil aviation authority's] work plan and are currently being put into practice."

Any downgrade to Category 2 would prevent Israeli carriers from starting new services to the USA, but would also represent a significant political blow to the Middle Eastern state.

Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert and US president George Bush met in Washington earlier this week, although it is not clear if the safety issue was discussed.

Category 2 status means that the FAA regards a country as providing inadequate oversight of air carriers, or deficient in areas such as inspection, technical expertise or trained personnel.

Ukraine, Indonesia, the Philippines, Bangladesh and Ghana are among the countries currently classified as Category 2.

The FAA spokesman says that, should Israel's status be reclassified, it will make a public announcement.

Conceding a "decades-long" hiatus, the Israeli transport ministry says it is addressing the replacement of senior officials at the CAA. "We are currently in the midst of recruiting high-quality manpower to increase the standard of control," it notes.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news