PAL hires third-party to boost category upgrade

In its bid to facilitate the compliance of the Philippines to certain safety issues raised by the United States Fed­eral Aviation Authority (US FAA), flag-carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) has tapped a third party to help the country regain the category I status for its aviation industry.

PAL said they already signed a contract with Tim Neel & Associates, LLC (TNA), and a US-based aviation consultant, to train and pro­vide technical assistance to the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) to help the country regain full compliance with inter­national aviation safety standards.

It may be recalled that the US FAA downgrad­ed the country’s aviation category to Catego­ry II due to certain safety issues. Such find­ings by the US FAA were already reinforced by the European Union when it also banned Philippine-based carriers from calling in their airports also due to safety concerns.

As the only Philippine carrier flying to the United States, the US FAA’s rating downgrade prevents PAL from launching new routes, adding more flights and replacing its current fleet flying to and from the US. It also placed the Philippines in the company of Category 2 countries like Bangladesh, Congo, Gambia, Guyana, Ivory Coast, Zimbabwe and others.

PAL president Jaime J. Bautista said the contract with TNA involves technical assis­tance in Aviation Safety Oversight to provide CAAP with the “roadmap” to comply with safety standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

The contract, meanwhile, involves techni­cal assistance and delivery to CAAP a com­prehensive regulatory system including an electronic database, inspector handbooks and technical guidance, advisory circulars, up­dates to the Philippine Civil Aviation Regula­tions (PCARs) and other related matters.

“TNA will provide training and software at no cost to the Philippine government since PAL will shoulder all expenses for the dura­tion of the project. As the regulatory agency, CAAP, on the other hand, would be the one to implement needed reforms,” Bautista said.

“While PAL is the principal beneficiary of the Category 2 lifting, the same will also benefit all other Philippine carriers with plans to op­erate in the US and other US territories. More importantly, if CAAP is fully compliant with ICAO standards, it could also pave the way for the lifting of ICAO’s ‘significant safety concerns’ and the EU blacklist of Philippine carriers,” Bautista stressed.

PAL treats the TNA contract not only as a form of technical assistance to the Philip­pine government but also as an “investment” in preparation for the delivery of PAL’s four Boeing 777-300ERs in 2012 and 2013 as it would allow PAL to make use of its two B777s to the US, the route they were origi­nally intended for.

TNA, on the other hand, is a consulting firm owned by retired Brig. Gen. Tim Neel that specializes in international aviation safety matters, including the assessment of aviation safety standards at government civil aviation authorities, international air carriers and air­ports.

Its major projects, among others, include As­sistance to the Commonwealth of the Baha­mas and Ghana to regain Category 1 Status; Senior Advisor and General Contractor to Boeing for providing technical assistance to the Government of Angola in Restructuring the Flight Safety Oversight Division of the Civil Aviation Authority.