Home » Aviation » ATO: Category 1 status achieved in three months

THE Air Transportation Office (ATO) is confident the country will regain its US Federal Aviation Authority (US FAA) Category 1 status in three months.

“We can address the issues in three months and hopefully the CAAP (Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines) bill will also be passed. We’ll provide the funds and we’re now discussing the funding requirement,” Transport Secretary and concurrent ATO chief Leandro Mendoza, in a press briefing last Monday said.

Recently, the US FAA downgraded the country’s airports from Category 1 to Category 2, raising safety concerns.

In 1995, the industry suffered the same fate but regained Category 1 status in 1997 after ATO assured the FAA of the passage of the aviation law, which up to now has not been approved.

Category 2 means a country’s civil aviation authorities (CAA) do not provide safety oversight of its air carriers in accordance with the minimum safety oversight standards of International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). All local airlines will be affected by the Category 2 rating.

Category 1 rating is given if the country’s CAA has been found to license and oversee air carriers in accordance with ICAO aviation safety standards.

ATO is presently crafting the CAAP implementing rules and regulations.

Mendoza said the government will immediately seek a re-assessment from the US FAA after compliance with safety requirements.

ATO operates 82 airports. It recently opened Davao, Iloilo and Bacolod airports.

It needs additional check pilots and air traffic controllers to comply with the continued surveillance obligation requirement of the US FAA. ATO has 3,500 personnel, although its actual requirement is for 7,000. It also needs 32 more check pilots to augment its present 12 pilots; 300 more air traffic controllers for a total of 1,000; and 27 additional inspectors from the present 25.

Mendoza said it takes $20,000 to train a pilot, with an hour of training worth $500. The pilots also have to undergo simulator training being offered in Hong Kong, Singapore and the US.

“We continuously recruit aviation safety officers, but we eventually lose them because of the low pay,” Mendoza said.

With the enactment of the CAAP bill into law, Mendoza said the ATO could seek exemption from the government salary standardization program.

“By this we can provide competitive pay for civil aviation technical inspectors and personnel,” he said.

Senator Richard Gordon said the downgrade, if not addressed, would reverse gains of the tourism industry, which infused $ 4.8 billion into the economy in 2007, up 8.7% from the previous year.

Tourist arrivals have also breached the three-million mark.

Gordon said a resolution was filed directing the Senate Committee on Tourism to identify the consequences of the downgrade on the tourism industry and to install measures to prevent a decline in tourist arrivals.

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