PETALING JAYA: The global standing of the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM) as an aviation regulator has finally been restored with its reinstatement as a Category 1 safety and technical regulator by the United States' Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), says Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong.
At a press conference in Montreal, Canada, on Friday evening (Saturday morning Malaysian time), the Transport Minister said the matter was something to be celebrated as it has been nearly three years since CAAM was downgraded to Category 2.
FAA's assessment covers CAAM's role as an aviation regulator, and is not an assessment of Malaysian airlines or airports, but due to the Category 2 status, airlines licensed by CAAM would not be able to add new routes to and from the United States, or enter into new code sharing agreements that involve flying there.
"We are very pleased to share that today, FAA has officially announced that Malaysia has regained Category 1 of the International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) rating.
"For this extremely proud achievement, I applaud everyone at CAAM for their tireless effort and commitment to this success," said Dr Wee, who kickstarted the transformation process in CAAM after he assumed the role of Transport Minister in March 2020.
As part of the change, Dr Wee brought in Tan Sri Mohd Khairul Adib Abd Rahman, the former director-general of public service, to be CAAM chairman, and career pilot Datuk Capt Chester Voo, as CEO.
In November 2019, FAA announced that Malaysia was assigned a Category 2 rating under the IASA programme due to non-compliance with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) safety standards after a reassessment of CAAM was made earlier that year.
"As part of the IASA programme, FAA assesses civil aviation authorities of all countries with air carriers that conduct flights to the United States or participate in code-sharing arrangements with US partner airlines," said Dr Wee, adding that these assessments determine how diligently foreign civil aviation authorities adhere to ICAO safety standards.
A Category 2 rating means that the country either lacks laws or regulations necessary to oversee air carriers in accordance with minimum international standards, or its civil aviation authority is deficient in one or more areas, such as technical expertise, trained personnel, record-keeping, or inspection procedures.
"The FAA assessment in 2019 found that CAAM needed to address 58 findings, and CAAM was able to resolve 25 of it in a relatively short time, while the 33 other findings took much longer to resolve," said Dr Wee, who is in Montreal, the headquarters of ICAO, to attend the ICAO general assembly.
Capt Voo, who was part of the delegation, expressed his gratitude to the FAA and Transport Ministry for their support in CAAM's reinstatement as a Category 1 regulator.
"There were 301 questions from the FAA audit that required 403 critical element responses, and I would like to express my gratitude to the FAA for its very instructive and very detailed efforts to achieve the best in safety for the civil aviation industry.
"I also like to thank the task force that I happen to be a part of as well, for assisting us in all the findings, and everyone, all stakeholders who have been extremely supportive and helpful.
"I must make a special mention as well of Malaysia Airlines, AirAsia, AirAsiaX, and Batik Air for your part in providing technical support and assistance.
"This has shown that Malaysia is compliant and has now demonstrated that we have an effective safety oversight capability.
"On behalf of all of our team, I would like to commit to all that we will be facilitating an inclusive aviation industry with no compromise on safety," said Capt Voo.
Dr Wee's delegation also included Datuk Seri Saripuddin Kasim, chairman of the Malaysian Aviation Commission (Mavcom); Datuk Isham Ishak; Transport Ministry secretary-general Khairul Adib, and senior officials of Malaysian airlines such as Malaysia Aviation Group CEO Izham Ismail, and Riad Asmat, CEO of AirAsia Malaysia, among others.
The ICAO Council, which comprises 36 member states selected via election during the general assembly, is the governing body of ICAO.
Malaysia was last re-elected to the ICAO council (under category III) for the 2019-2022 term, its fifth consecutive term since 2007.
According to the Transport Ministry, Malaysia's election as an ICAO council member enables the country to contribute to the international civil aviation industry and provides an avenue to voice matters affecting national interest, while also raising the country's standing at the global level.