TT keeps Category One status
By Vernon Khelawan Thursday, July 19 2012
TRINIDAD and Tobago (TT) is not now in danger of losing its Category 1 rating.
Unconfirmed reports following last week’s audit by the International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) audit ordered by the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on the country’s safety oversight, revealed that Trinidad and Tobago was generally in compliance with the applicable International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) standards, except for a few small inadequacies.
The last time such an audit was conducted on the TT Civil Aviation Authority (TTCAA) by the FAA to evaluate the country’s safety oversight was seven years ago, in June 2005. The FAA may re-assess a country’s CAA at any time, if it has reason to believe that minimum ICAO standards were not being met.
Call for the audit arose when state-owned Caribbean Airlines Limited (CAL) completed its takeover of Air Jamaica in May 2011 and decided to market itself as “one airline; two brands”. The dilemma arose when the ability of the TTCAA was questioned as to whether it was equipped to monitor CAL’s Jamaica-based operations (brand Air Jamaica) according to ICAO standards.
Additionally, the buy out meant that Air Jamaica was no longer in existence and furthermore did not any longer have an Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC). It has been reported that the CAA has already recommended that CAL drop the Air Jamaica brand.
Discussions on this issue take place today in Kingston between TT and Jamaica. The Trinidad and Tobago team is headed by Trade, Industry and Investment Minister, Senator Vasant Bharath, who now has the responsibility of all State enterprises. The delegation also includes CAL’s Chairman Rabindra Moonan, acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Robert Corbie, former Transport Minister Senator Devant Maharaj and representatives of the TTCAA.
Chairman Moonan told Business Day the issue had been “a matter of concern for some time” and that the CAA had already brought it to the airline’s attention. He added however, that in addition to the legal ramifications of the situation, there was also a political dimension and today’s meeting was called specifically to find a way “to deal with the problem and resolve the issue”.
The other issue that raised red flags was CAL’s plans to re-introduce transAtlantic service to London using B-767-316ER aeroplanes, an aircraft type the company had never operated and there was the question of proper safety oversight, including up-to-date manuals and the ETOPS requirement for long range flights over water, necessary to meet ICAO standards. Since the airline’s current twice a week service to London Gatwick is being operated using a wet lease aircraft, the ETOPS regulation does not apply.
CAL inherited its present ETOPS (extended range twin-engined over water operations over 90 minutes from an alternate airport) from its predecessor BWIA International. BWIA had never used twin-engined aircraft when it operated its London service. However, CAL officials are confident that this matter would be settled in a matter of weeks and its two planes, now sitting in Mexico, would be certified and be able to operate the transAtlantic services.
To improve the efficiency of the TTCAA and to satisfy the minimum safety standards as required by ICAO, the Authority has hired additional flight operations inspectors, who have almost completed training in the United States. With the addition of the B-767 aircraft, CAL is now operating four aircraft types – B-737-800 New Generation; Dash-8-300s, ATR-72-600s and soon B-767-300. The CAA must have in its employ adequate inspectors for each aircraft type.
CAL: London doing well
Meanwhile, after five weeks of the new service between Port-of-Spain and London Gatwick, acting CEO Robert Corbie told Business Day the service was “holding its own and doing well”.
He said the route was experiencing a 76 per cent load factor, and according to advanced booking statistics should increase over the July/August vacation period, moreso because of the Olympics set to begin next week.
He also said negotiations were currently being conducted regarding funding arrangements for the additional three ATRs and that the first of the three should be here “soon”. Concurrent with those funding negotiations, efforts are also being made to secure buyers for the remaining four ATRs which CAL had ordered, but would not now be taking possession. “The prospects look good,” he added.
Another positive development for CAL, at least in the revenue generating department, is the monopoly it would soon enjoy on the Grenada –New York route. From September 02 to December 14, it would be the only carrier operating that service following the Grenada government’s accord with US-based Delta Airlines to stay off the route for the designated period. The move was made to save the Grenada government more than (US)$100,000, which it would normally have to pay to Delta to fly passengers into Point Salines International. In October last year Grenada paid Delta some (US)$70,000 for operating services to the Spice Isle.
Many of the smaller islands in the Caribbean pay US-based airlines for “airlift support” to assist their tourism industry.