PUTRAJAYA: The regulatory body governing the Malaysian skies vows to regain its status as a Category 1 regulator within 24 months following the downgrade to Category 2 by the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) effective Nov 11.
“FAA held that we have 30 areas to rectify, though we felt that it is more appropriate to say it is 22.
“There was some ambiguity as CAAM follows a somewhat different international standard, ” said Civil Aviation Authority Malaysia (CAAM) board member Afzal Abdul Rahim.
Afzal emphasised that the downgrade was about the regulatory authority and not of any airline.
He said 300 questions were asked on 300 areas that were surveyed during the audit.
“Thirty-three areas are still outstanding, plus there were some ambiguous ones, ” he said at a press conference yesterday.
“The typical time frame the FAA allows for us to be re-evaluated is between 12 and 24 months, as evidenced in other countries.
“In the view of the board, we are confident we can attain that in 12 months but we need to convince the FAA to come visit us in 12 months, ” said Afzal.
He added that code sharing could be affected due to the downgrade, but CAAM is still awaiting clarification on the matter.
On the shortcomings raised, Afzal said they were legislative, budgetary, human resource and documentation in nature.
An example of a legislative shortcoming was that the FAA believed that CAAM should have the powers to fine and penalise licensees.
However, Malaysian law does not allow CAAM to issue penalties, with Afzal saying the matter is decided by the courts.
“The first hurdle we have to face is the fact that we need to amend some of our laws to cure some of these issues. We are constrained by laws.
“The second challenge is that our aviation regulation needs to be updated as well, ” he said.
On whether CAAM would propose changes to the law, he said they had a list.
Regarding documentation, he explained that CAAM followed the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards and some housekeeping issues were raised because the FAA had other criteria.
“Perhaps there were some documentations that did not meet the level that the FAA felt it should be at. We’ve reviewed this and we feel that our documentation is in good order.
“For example, the ICAO does not state that we need to match engine numbers and aircraft models but the FAA thinks that we do. So we have some discrepancies there, ” he said.
On the possibility of future audits by other regulatory bodies due to the downgrade, Afzal said that CAAM was ready.
“We are expecting that to happen. There are audits done all the time and that is the nature of our work. We are always prepared, ” he said.
In a statement on Monday, CAAM said the downgrade was not an assessment of Malaysian airlines, airports or air traffic control.
“The latest listing is a result of FAA review of CAAM in April, ” said CAAM chairman Captain Ahmad Ridzwan Mohd Salleh in the statement.
“The FAA carries out such audits of regulators who oversee the operation of flights into the United States. The audit covered areas of legislation, oversight, delegation of authority as well as adequacy of the number of technical personnel employed by CAAM.
“Whilst CAAM acknowledges that in carrying out its duties as an aviation regulator, some shortcomings exist, we wish to emphasise that the assessment only covered CAAM’s role as an aviation regulator, ” he said.
The assessment and subsequent categorisation by the FAA was unilateral in nature, and within their rights as an International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) member state, he added.
“CAAM has requested the FAA to conduct a reassessment within the next 12 months with the intention of having its Category 1 status restored. It should be noted that plans are already well underway to address the findings of the audit.
“CAAM continues to contribute to the development and oversight of aviation via its seat on the ICAO Council, ” said Capt Ahmad Ridzwan.
“It also remains fully in compliance with all ICAO standards and legislation, having been audited by ICAO as recently as the middle of 2019.
“Given the critical nature of aviation, CAAM takes the FAA’s assessment constructively and has moved to make serious changes to its structure and operations, ” he said.
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was quoted as saying that the government would take the necessary corrective measures if there was anything wrong with Malaysia’s civil aviation authority.
Asked on reports that the FAA has downgraded Malaysia’s air safety rating, Dr Mahathir said he had no knowledge about the details but would look into it and “find out why”.
“We will correct the situation, so that the whole world will respect Malaysia’s aviation authority, ” he told a news conference after chairing a Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia meeting on Monday evening.
Reuters reported that the downgrade places Malaysia in the same FAA category as Thailand, which was downgraded to Category 2 in December 2015 and has since tried unsuccessfully to restore the top Category 1 rating. Other countries in Category 2 include Bangladesh, Ghana and Costa Rica.
As a Category 2 Regulator, airlines licensed by CAAM will not be able to add new routes to and from the United States.
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