All Armenian carriers have been blacklisted by the European Commission, after more than six months of discussions with the Civil Aviation Committee of Armenia over safety concerns relating to its oversight capability.
Two Armenian airlines – Aircompany Armenia and Armenia Airways – as well as the Civil Aviation Committee were visited in February by a European air safety delegation, following notification of the concerns the previous October.
The on-site visit resulted in multiple findings with particular unease over staff training and serious deficiencies in effective capacity to conduct certification and oversight properly.
“It is clear from the assessment visit report that the [committee] has a systemic weakness in terms of personnel management,” says documentation accompanying the blacklisting decision.
The visit revealed the committee lacked procedures to determine manpower requirements and training requirements, as well as their implementation.
It also lacked a structured document-management system to assure certification traceability as well as quality-management functions needed to oversee administration and effective transposition of legal, regulatory and technical requirements.
“[The committee] was unable to provide requested evidence of activities performed as part of the initial air operator certificate [process] for its certified air carriers,” the blacklist documentation states.
Examination of the carriers during the visit turned up “several issues”, it adds, which “should have been detected” as part of regulatory oversight.
Six operators and the Civil Aviation Committee were invited to a formal European safety hearing on 12 May.
These operators included Aircompany Armenia, Atlantis Armenian Airlines, Atlantis European Airways, Armenia Airways, Armenian Helicopters, and hot-air balloon firm Skyball.
During the hearing the Armenian committee outlined the safety improvements made since the visit, particularly regarding personnel and document management, improvements to the flight operations department, air operator certification, and inspector training.
The regulatory also informed that it had taken steps to revoke certification from Armenian carriers considered non-compliant with international safety standards.
While the European safety team acknowledged that the situation in Armenia has resulted from a “long period of inefficiency and neglect”, and that rectification measures are being pursued with government support, they added that the Civil Aviation Committee’s capability to oversee aviation activities is “insufficient” and does not meet minimum standards.
“Significant further improvement of [the committee’s] capabilities will be necessary in order to address the current safety deficiencies,” the blacklist documentation adds, citing the deficiencies with personnel management and training, as well as “inadequate” certification processes and “ineffective” oversight.
While the six aviation operators provided evidence to the hearing, they failed to convince the European safety team that they were capable of independent self-regulation.
“None of the information or evidence provided by any of the air carriers, before or during the hearing, provided…the assurance that the lack of safety oversight by [the Civil Aviation Committee] could be mitigated through the air carriers’ own compliance and safety systems,” the documentation says.
European transport commissioner Adina Valean says the decision to impose a blanket blacklisting on Armenia was unanimous, but that the Commission and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency are “ready to co-operate and invest in Armenia to improve its aviation safety”.