Eight countries sign up to form Vanuatu-based regional body that will provide inspectors to audit flight operations

Eight South Pacific countries are setting up a regional safety office to oversee the regulation of flight operations, airworthiness, aviation security and airports.

The eight - members of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat - have already signed up to join the Pacific Aviation Safety Office (PASO). They are Australia, Fiji, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu. The other eight members of the secretariat have yet to join, but several are expected to do so in the next 12 to 18 months.

"PASO is being set up as we speak and will have a general manager by 14 September and will have an interim body to set up administration in Vanuatu by the end of this year," says Hugh Ritchie, a senior aviation adviser to the Solomon Islands government and other Pacific island countries.

Each signatory country will maintain its respective aviation regulatory bodies, but "the PASO office will provide flight inspectors and airworthiness inspectors who will audit countries at a fee to maintain ICAO standards", says Ritchie.

"Most countries [in the South Pacific] don't have the capability to have their own safety inspectors and a number of countries have been utilising safety inspectors from the UK Civil Aviation Authority and following the UK orders for overseas territories since 2001."

The UK CAA has a regional office in Fiji. Ritchie says PASO has come about partly because of the "inadequacies" of the UK orders when applied to Pacific island countries.

He adds: "They [the signatories to PASO], with the exception of Australia, are looking at adopting New Zealand rules and regulations so we have more integrated and seamless safety standards."

Secretariat members that have yet to sign are the Cook Islands, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau and Tuvalu.

Source: Flight International