|ECCAA Achieves Category ONE Status|
|Thursday, 23 March 2006 20:00|
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This marks the culmination of almost 10 long years of tough assiduous work. The persons who have contributed to our success go far beyond the present staff of the ECCAA and beyond the OECS for that matter. Given the limited resources at our disposal, this accomplishment has not been an easy feat.
The ICAO has published 18 Annexes to the Chicago Convention. Each Annex contains Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) applicable to an aviation discipline which every Contracting State is obliged to enact into its domestic law for use in regulating all civil aviation activity in its territory. Safety audits (whether IASA, EASA or USOAP) are conducted to determine compliance with ICAO SARPs and a State's safety oversight capacity. The audit seeks to identify deficiencies in any of the eight critical elements used in the audit and, if necessary, provides a framework for the resolution of these deficiencies through an agreed upon action plan.
The US FAA conducted the assessment in early July 1996 using the eight critical elements referred to earlier:
The scope of the assessment was limited to three safety areas (3 ICAO Annexes 1-6-8) Personnel Licensing, Flight Operations and Airworthiness of Aircraft. The findings of the August 1996 report sited, inter alia, six major deficiencies.
It also concluded that the DCA did not provide adequate aviation safety supervision to the air operators of the OECS countries.
Following consultations between the US FAA and the OECS DCA in September 1996, a framework for the development of an action plan to correct the deficiencies was agreed upon.
The record of the consultations stated:
"because of the Category 2 conditional rating, no expansion of the FAA operations specifications issued to the Government of Antigua and Barbuda or other OECS Member States licensed international air carriers will be permitted."
In addition, the FAA recommended to the US Department of Transport that new services that might be requested by other OECS Member States air carriers not be approved until the deficiencies discussed have been corrected.
During the period 1996 and 2000, three Airworthiness and two Flight Operations Inspectors were recruited and trained. Completed also was the merger of the DCA with OECS Aeradio and the re-location of the merged entity into the former OECS Aeradio Building. Work was in progress on civil aviation legislation and the extension of the headquarters building.
Between 2001 and 2004, the Government of Antigua and Barbuda completed the expansion and refurbishment of the DCA's Headquarters thereby providing additional space for the creation of a technical library and offices for newly recruited staff.
By the end of October 2004, we had successfully completed six of the eight critical elements alluded to earlier. We ushered into operation the birth of the ECCAA headed by a Board of Directors, a Director General, a Director of Air Navigation Services, Director of Flight Safety and Director of Finance and Administration. These changes represented a significant milestone in the history of the DCA and its quest to achieve US FAA Category 1.
However, despite all the progress made to this point, there still remained two unfinished critical elements of significant challenge to the ECCAA:
In November 2005, the last two critical elements were completed and in the same month LIAT became the first OECS air carrier to be recertified under the new regulations and be issued with a new Air Operator Certificate (AOC) and Approved Maintenance Organisation (AMO) certificate.
The civil aviation authority agreement act required a minimum of four Member States to enact the new legislation before the ECCAA could have been established. By November 2005 five out of the six states had already enacted the legislation. We therefore could not have done it without the political will and the strong commitment of all OECS Heads of Governments. We wish to record our sincere appreciation to the OECS Authority of Heads of governments for their unwavered support and patience through all the years.
In early December 2005, the FAA successfully conducted its final audit of the ECCAA thereby effectively bringing to an end our journey to CAT 1.
Our elevation to Cat 1 serves to validate the work done over the years, the decisions taken by all concerned and the systems and partnerships we have established through the years. A major accomplishment, which is worth noting, is that for the first time were we able to get the 2 OECS regional carriers, LIAT and Caribbean Star, to come together for a common purpose. They were able to work together in collaboration with the other operators in formulating the operators' comments to the draft regulations. We took their input on board in arriving at the final draft regulations. Notwithstanding, the support we have received from all OECS operators have been overwhelming. Our pilots acknowledged the importance of attaining Cat 1 to the extent that on numerous occasions, they would express to me their anxiety in the slow pace of work towards that goal.
We were able to benefit tremendously from the experiences of the CARICOM countries that have gone this route before us. I speak specifically about, the Bahamas, Suriname, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. We were able to literally stand on the shoulders of these CARICOM States. The experiential learning that we derived from these states has been invaluable in our work towards Cat 1 Status. In that regard, I wish to also highlight the technical assistance received from RASOS and the USFAA.
We recognise that even greater challenges lay ahead as we now shift our strategy from attainment to retention of USFAA Cat 1. This will involve:
Finally, one of the purposes of the ECCAA as enshrined in article 4 of the ECCAA agreement Act states "to establish and maintain a regulatory environment that promotes safety and efficiency in the civil aviation industry of the participating States". The OECS attainment of USFAA Cat 1 is part of that environment we have been seeking to establish; it is up to all stakeholders to ensure that we preserve this environment through our actions.