MANILA (Mabuhay) – The Philippines may soon get to launch more flights to the United States, following an air safety rating upgrade from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) expects to happen as early as next week.
An FAA team is arriving early next week to stage a mini audit of the Philippine situation and will probably make a major announcement, Capt. John Andrews, CAAP deputy director general, said in a press conference Pasay City on Tuesday.
“This Monday, John Barbagallo who is the manager of the flight service department of the US FAA, together with James Spillane who is the area manager of Asia Pacific Rim are going to CAAP for the possible lifting of the ban of the Category 2 on the Philippine aviation,” said Andrews.
In 2008, FAA downgraded the CAAP safety rating to Category 2 from Category 1 based on findings of the United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), citing the failure of CAAP to meet ICAO safety standards on the oversight of air carrier operations.
Under Category 2 status, Philippine carriers were allowed to continue current operations to the US but under strict FAA surveillance.
“Now this is significant because five years ago, when the Philippines was rated or given this Category 2 rating, it was also Barbagallo who headed the contingent that saw that we were deficient in safety aspects,” Andrews told reporters.
“He is coming back here after several FAA representatives he had sent over for the past several months made reports to him that we are ready for lifting,” he added.
In the last four months, FAA teams were in the Philippines for a continuing evaluation of aviation safety standards, according to the CAAP official.
If the Philippine does not get a Category 1 upgrade from the FAA before the year is out, Andrews said he is quitting his job. “… If that does not happen the buck stops at me. If this does not happen before the end of the year, I will no longer be here. That is my commitment.”
Last February, ICAO lifted the remaining aviation safety concerns on the Philippines which prompted the European Union to lift a 2010 ban on Philippine carriers in European skies.
“I am confident that there are no more safety issues as far as we are concerned, and this has been confirmed by no less than the EU and ICAO,” Andrews noted.
Under Category 1 status, flag carrier Philippine Airlines can expand its US operations, according to the CAAP official.
“PAL is the only one that operates in the US,” Andrews said.
“They will be able to use their more efficient aircraft as replacement for the old aircraft they are using now, which is no longer competitive as far as operations are concerned.
“We will be probably be opening up new routes to the US because our routes to the US is practically limited – depending on traffic of course,” Andrews added. (MNS)