Thailand speeds hiring of aviation experts to raise standards

5_Aviation1Showing its commitment to solving problems with speed and urgency, Thailand’s government ordered the Department of Civil Aviation to fast track the hiring of dozens of foreign aviation experts and inspectors to help rectify any deficiencies or gaps cited by the United States Federal Aviation Authority (FAA), which recently downgraded the Thai aviation industry’s safety rating to Category 2.

Meanwhile, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) conducted an audit and gave passing grades on safety last week to THAI Airways International and MJets, the only two Thailand-based airlines that regularly fly to Europe. The Thai government and aviation officials were concerned that the EASA would simply follow the lead of the FAA, resulting in a ban on Thai airlines from flying that continent. No Thai airlines currently fly to the U.S. And there have been no significant safety incidents involving Thai airlines in recent years.

“I am thankful they acknowledged our efforts. I am aware it wasn’t an easy decision for them. They could have just followed the ICAO and the FAA,” Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said upon learning of the EASA’s green light for Thai airlines.

The deficiencies cited in the FAA downgrade, and in a related warning by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), largely relate to shortages of staff and funding at the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA), which is the industry’s domestic regulator. Despite massive growth in the Kingdom’s air traffic and the number of airlines, no government in recent years had increased funding to the DCA, leaving it short staffed and unable to fulfill all of its responsibilities.

The Nation newspaper reported that over 400 aircraft in Thailand are awaiting inspections, and the DCA said it needs 86 specialists to conduct the work in a timely manner. To meet that need, Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon ordered the DCA to hire dozens of foreign experts within one month.

“Thailand is entering into the high season for tourist arrivals. If our national airline has a problem we will work with other carriers to continue the business,” said Ittirit Kinglake, president of the Tourism Council of Thailand.

The FAA downgrade has prompted the Ministry of Transport to announce that all airlines must be re-certified as part of an overhaul of the country’s aviation safety system. The re-certification consists of five steps.

First is a pre-application process, while the second step is to seek formal application approval. The third step is to undergo technical testing, while the fourth step is to carry out a “demonstration.” If approved, the applicant airline will be re-certified.

All 41 airlines registered in Thailand have already submitted their documents to the DCA and had passed the second step. Next, the 28 airlines operating in and out of Thailand are required to undergo testing. These airlines are expected to receive re-certification in August. The department will then ask the 13 airlines operating only domestic routes to join the testing procedure.