By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
While praising the Government for its efforts in ensuring this nation passed a recent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) audit, a leading airline executive says the Bahamas is “not quite out of the woods yet”.
Captain Randy Butler, Sky Bahamas chief executive, said this was because another audit of its civil aviation safety regime – this time by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) – was set for next month.
He added, though, that he was optimistic about how the Bahamas would fare in the upcoming ICAO audit based on the efforts put into preparing for the recent FAA version.
“You have to congratulate the Minister of Transport and Aviation, and the folks at Civil Aviation. I think what they have done demonstrates the political will to get it done,” Captain Butler said.
“The question now is how do we sustain being Category One if we had to have foreign consultants come in and fix the system and train etc. Do we have adequately qualified persons to maintain the system? Do we have the resources to maintain them?
“The FAA audit looked at safety oversight for [ICAO] Annexes 1, 6 and 8, with one being personnel licensing; six being the operation of aircraft; and eight being the airworthiness of aircraft. Then there were also the eight critical elements of a safety oversight they looked at.”
FAA inspectors had returned to the Bahamas in August for a pivotal review of this nation’s ‘action plan’ and measures taken to correct deficiencies in its aviation regulatory regime.
The FAA audit, which initially took place in April 2013 as part of its regular three-four year reviews, found numerous deficiencies that - if not corrected - could have resulted in this nation being downgraded to Category 2 status. Captain Butler noted that among the consequences of a bad FAA audit would have been that Bahamian-owned airlines, including Bahamasair, would be unable to expand their routes and flight frequency into the US.
Captain Butler said: “ICAO is coming in November, and they are going to look at the airports, air traffic, security, air traffic management systems and the others parts of the ICAO Annexes.
“This is usually a system-wide audit, and this is different from the FAA, which looks at these particular areas for aircraft flying to their country. The FAA audit is significant in terms of having the potential to have real fallout.
“ICAO is global, but it doesn’t have the kind of force in place as the FAA. Yet the ICAO is more ‘name and shame’. You will have ICAO look at Annex 1, 6 and 8, and they will look at airports, which the FAA did not look at.”
ICAO is the specialised United Nations agency that sets global aviation safety standards.
“They are going to look at some of the same things the FAA looked at, and they are going to look at additional annexes,” said Captain Butler. “I’m very optimistic. I was encouraged by the efforts put into the last audit. If the same kind of effort is put into this one I’m very encouraged.”