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Philippine aviation status in limbo as US shuts down
Publication Date : 04-10-2013
The anticipated upgrade in the Philippines' aviation status, to be determined by the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), may be delayed due to the “shutdown” of the US government, said a Philippine aviation expert.
But a ranking official of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines said the agency is not yet concerned at this time as it continues to await directions from the FAA.
The Philippines is supposed to be upgraded to a Category 1 status by the FAA sometime this month, said Capt. Amado Soliman Jr., who chairs the Air Safety Foundation. If the US government shutdown were to be prolonged, then the plans of local airlines to fly to or expand operations in the United States would have to wait.
US lawmakers on Oct. 1 failed to agree on a new budget, forcing the federal government to cease all but the most vital operations for the first time in 17 years. About 800,000 federal employees in segments and services deemed non-essential are now idle.
In the case of the FAA, as many as 3,000 safety inspectors had to go on leave while its rulemaking function was also suspended.
CAAP deputy director general John Andrews yesterday said the agency has yet to hear word of any delay from the US safety regulator.
“We assume the original plans are in place, unless we are notified otherwise,” Andrews said. “All these need to be addressed by the FAA. We are really just waiting for their comments and directions.”
FAA safety inspectors have been making regular visits to the Philippines as part of a technical assistance programme signed last June. The programme calls for a two-year monitoring period.
Andrews said the FAA has yet to confirm the schedule for its next visit.
Last August, CAAP director general William Hotchkiss III said the restoration of the country’s aviation status to Category 1 after it was downgraded five years ago was supposed to happen in October.
The FAA assesses the civil aviation authorities of all countries with air carriers that operate or have applied to fly to the United States, and makes that information available to the public. Specifically, the FAA determines whether foreign civil aviation authorities are meeting International Civil Aviation Organisation safety standards.
The Philippines passed the ICAO assessment early this year, which led to the lifting last July of a ban imposed by the European Union.
Only flag carrier Philippine Airlines mounts flights to the United States.
However, its ability to expand there is limited by current FAA restrictions. Cebu Pacific Air, the country’s largest budget carrier, said it was also keen on mounting flights to the United States and was eyeing Hawaii as a potential destination.
Hotchkiss earlier said that, even with the restoration to Category 1 status, the FAA could again downgrade the Philippines if it failed to meet certain requirements under the technical assistance programme.