Paul Phelan/CAIRNS

The aviation ministers of 14 Pacific nations are calling for a region-wide air traffic management (ATM) plan, a single aviation market, and the harmon- isation and updating of civil aviation regulation and security following a South Pacific Forum meeting in Suva, Fiji on 4 May.

The group says its secretariat has been tasked with examining ways to initiating three inter-related studies covering:

the future unification of upper and lower airspace management throughout the region; the economic regulation of air transport with emphasis on a single aviation market; harmonisation and updating of aviation security, and of the technical oversight of airworthiness and flight operations.

"We badly need a co-operative arrangement to assist small Pacific islands in carrying out their flight operations and airworthiness oversight responsibilities," says George Faktaufon, the secretary general of the Association of South Pacific Airlines. "We've been talking about this for the last 10 years and it hasn't happened."

Faktaufon says that, between the 14 countries, five different aviation regulations are followed. "It's generally agreed that we should adopt one set of regulations within the region," he says.

The Forum also wants a single air traffic management system to encompass the region, which incorporates the Pacific oceanic airspace of Australia, the Cook Islands, Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.

Faktaufon says that it was unanimously agreed that the future collective Pacific island airspace remain under one air traffic management system and that it should be controlled as one airspace, and not fragmented.

The ministers discussed the option of competitive tendering for a total ATM system for the entire region, which would be likely to place the New Zealand's Airways Corporation's newly modernised system in head-to-head competition with Airservices Australia. Funding for regulatory unification could come from overflight charges.

Source: Flight International