Venezuela’s recent experience getting the FAA to recognise its many aviation safety improvements indicates a broader need to reform the policy that restricted the country, as well as the need to reform other out-dated forms of international governance.

The International Aviation Safety Assessments (IASA) programme that the FAA uses to rate a country’s safety compliance, although trying to reach the common objective of improving airline safety, has unfairly hurt international airlines to the benefit of US carriers. While the country is rated pass or fail, the airlines – deemed safe by US and international standards before and after the rating – are unduly punished for their country’s civil aviation authority organisation, airports, air traffic control and federal aviation safety issues.

The FAA’s IASA program should not affect new air service or additional frequencies between the two countries in question. The program is one government’s rating of another. Too often, airlines get snared by the broad nets of international government policy, as Venezuela had been for many years.

The solution to this imbalance lies in the FAA’s own language “The FAA’s International Aviation Safety Assessment programme focuses on a country’s ability, not the individual air carrier, to adhere to international standards and recommended practices for aircraft operations and maintenance established by the United Nation’s technical agency for aviation, the International Civil Aviation Organisation.”

Alex  de Gunten W167
However, during that intervening decade, Continental and Delta Air Lines launched services to Venezuela, and American added a service. But if any of Venezuela’s carriers wanted to add flight capacity they had to hire a third party via wet lease, usually a US carrier. In a business of razor-thin margins, the Latin carriers have been at a disadvantage for too many years because of this structure.

The role of auditing whether countries are adhering to the international safety and operational standards should fall on ICAO, not on any individual country. This will avoid the risk of aviation safety to be used as a political or financial tool.

Another change that should happen is that any Open Skies treaty between nations should allow airlines from those nations to operate unlimited air service to that Open Skies country – regardless of IASA ranking. Guatemala and Nicaragua, for example, both have Open Skies treaties with the USA, but their airlines are effectively shut out from adding service because of their Category 2 restriction.

There are six Latin American and Caribbean countries – Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Paraguay and Uruguay – that have Open Skies treaties with the USA but whose airlines are kept uncompetitive in Cat 2 by the FAA.

The wheels of government turn slowly. The industry needs to speed the process for change and, more importantly, for advancement. We have seen this countless times in Latin America and the Caribbean, where some policies are formed without taking into consideration the need for effective, fair and balanced solutions. ■

How IASA works

Almost 600 foreign air carriers currently operate services into the USA. The FAA International Aviation Safety Assessments (IASA) programme is designed to ensure that all foreign air carriers operating to or from the USA are properly licensed and have safety oversight provided by a competent certification authority in accordance with ICAO standards. The system swings into action when an airline from a country wishing to fly into the USA files an application with the US Transportation Department (DoT) for a foreign air carrier permit.

If it has not previously carried out a safety assessment of the originating country of the carrier, the FAA then visits its CAA to do so and, if compliant, the DoT issues the relevant economic authority and the FAA the operations specifications permitting the airline to start operations into the USA.

Latin American countries in FAA category 2 are Belize, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Nicaragua, Paraguay and Uruguay.

Source: Airline Business