ICAO official says Kingdom can benefit from aviation boom
Thailand stands to benefit from soaring growth in air traffic expected during the coming decade if it can meet the challenges confronting its regulators, an official with the International Civil Aviation Organization said last week, as THAI Airways International unveiled plans for a new state-of-the-art, high-tech ‘Smart Hangar’ to maintain and repair aircraft at U-Tapao.
Arun Mishra, regional director of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), said he was optimistic about Thailand’s aviation potential and that his agency would provide the necessary support to ensure that the country successfully tackles all issues of concern raised by the ICAO. The Thai aviation sector has been under stress from its own explosive growth over the past two decades.
Thailand’s geographic location makes it a natural hub for air traffic in Southeast Asia, and the emergence of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Economic Community, or AEC, free trade area will be a factor in driving aviation growth in the region because of its open-skies policy, Mishra said.
“Aviation is growing everywhere. However, the major problem is the lack of aviation infrastructure, which needs urgent development,” Mishra said, adding that ASEAN needs more airports. In comparison, over 200 airports are expected to open in China and India in the next 10 years, he said.
The ICAO raised concerns on regulator’s ability to monitor and enforce safety standards as successive governments had failed to increase funding for the Department of Civil Aviation(DCA) for more than a decade despite the growing number of flights and passengers. That left the Department without enough properly trained inspectors. No Thai airlines have been found to have any serious safety issues, however, by international air safety ratings agencies.
The government of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has responded to the ICAO with urgency, increasing funding for the DCA and putting pressure on the Department to train or hire as many qualified inspectors as needed so that the public will have no doubts about the Kingdom’s air safety.
Nitinai Sirismatthakarn, president of Airports of Thailand (AOT), which manages the six largest airports in the country, said that the aviation industry still has faith in his company and Thai aviation.
“AOT has been asked to lead the development of small airports in the region,” he said.
Nitinai said that over the past six years his company signed sister-airport agreements with 11 counterparts that operate 15 international airports in Japan, China, South Korea, Germany and the United States for joint training and services.
Meanwhile, Chalermpon Intarawong, THAI International Airways executive vice president, said THAI is planning to build a “smart hangar” at U-Tapao airport east of Bangkok to service planes from THAI and other airlines. He said it would be the most advanced aircraft maintenance facility in the region.
Almost every check and maintenance process will be handled by computer systems with robots and high-definition cameras that will scan every part on every plane for defects and wear. The smart hangar will save repair time and increase work efficiency, he said.
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