Santamarina Steta

Implications of downgrading to category two in aviation. The data: Santamarina and Steta

  • Austerity and its limits. No resources were invested.
  • Losses for airlines, passengers, and security alerts..

Mexico City. May 23, 2022. Juan Carlos Machorro, a partner in charge of the transactional area and expert in aeronautical and airport law at the legal firm Santamarina y Steta, listed the points that every day keeps us from the possibility of returning to category one.

1.- It is necessary to inform that the degradation of Mexican civil aviation to category 2 by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of the Department of Transportation applies only to government aviation authorities, not the whole aviation sector. The FAA is in charge of regulating and supervising the aviation industry in the United States.

2.- The FAA evaluated the Federal Civil Aviation Agency (AFAC) of the Mexican government, corresponding to the period from October 2020 to February 2021. The FAA announced on May 25, 2021, that the AFAC did not meet standards of air operation safety regulations issued by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), an agency of the United Nations Organization created under the Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention - 1944), demoting the Mexican authority to Category 2.

Category 2 indicates that the regulation of the country in question lacks the requirements to adequately supervise airline operations by minimum international safety standards and that the authority has significant areas of opportunity in issues such as technical expertise, qualified personnel, follow-up of complete cases and files, inspection procedures and/or the effective management and solution of air safety problems.

Currently in Category 2, in addition to Mexico: Bangladesh, Curaçao, Ghana, Malaysia, Pakistan, Russia, Thailand, Venezuela, and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States.

3.- In the case of Mexico, the authority comes badly stopped a year after degradation, not only because of recent incidents but also because AFAC did not invest the necessary resources to address this situation.

This May 25 marks one year since the Mexican authority was demoted to Category 2.

There are no signs of improvement, and some recent incidents and pronouncements by pilots and air traffic controllers do not help. Information is coming to light about budget cuts, which include qualified strategic personnel, particularly flight controllers, who have been replaced by hiring at discretion without considering the essential need for expert and security personnel for the crew, passengers, and population surrounding the airports. To this, we must add the pending union conflicts from past administrations, which makes the work environment rare. Summary: fewer staff, with fewer salary resources, with fewer budgetary resources. It also enlights that the flight controllers had the order not to fully report the incidents. These critical points worsened after a change of routes and the simultaneous operation of two airports in Mexico City, with several incidents recently reported.

Estos puntos críticos se agravaron tras un cambio de rutas y la operación simultánea de dos aeropuertos en la Ciudad de México, con varios incidentes reportados recientemente.

The FAA made 28 observations that include: inconsistencies between the Civil Aviation Law and its regulations (which do not allow the effective implementation of provisions of the Chicago Convention); that there is not an adequate number of qualified and experienced technical personnel or a system to ensure that the salaries of inspectors are equivalent to those of the industry personnel that are monitored or guarantee that technical personnel receive adequate training; that there is no process that ensures fair qualifications of the medical personnel who carry out evaluations of aviation personnel, nor is there a system for monitoring the operation of medical licenses evaluation; that the recurring training of airworthiness inspectors was not completed on time; that there is no system that allows adequately knowing information about aircraft defects and failures, and that there is no comprehensive system that guarantees the continuous operational safety of the holder of an Air Services Operator Certificate (AOC) nor a method to guarantee that the deficiencies of the AOC certifications are corrected in time.

In short, we have a highly deteriorated sector. Safety protocols that send planes back into the sky to reorder routes are becoming commonplace. Combined with the previous points, they constitute a wake-up call in aviation safety.

4.- Technical wisdom, scientific thought, and market logic are being ignored. This lethargy can prolong and deteriorate the situation.

5.- What does it mean to stay in category 2? Let's start with greater FAA scrutiny of flights operated by Mexican airlines to the United States.

Additionally, as long as we remain in Category 2, Mexican airlines can't add or modify routes or frequencies to the United States, incorporate new aircraft into the fleet with which they operate to that territory, or initiate codeshare programs with airlines. Americans. They cannot be reinvented with new routes. They are manacled.

North American airlines, for their part, can expand operations to Mexico (routes or frequencies), subtracting market share from Mexican airlines.

The downgrading to Category 2 also affects Mexican airlines with non-scheduled services (air taxis), which cannot add new aircraft to the fleet with which they operate. With the degradation, neither new routes nor new frequencies can be made from Mexico to the United States.

Airports are also affected. Notplane bound for the United States can take off from AIFA, and no airplane from there can land. The Toluca airport, in a state of operational abandonment, cannot add new routes or frequencies to the US either.

What to say about the deteriorated passenger experience. Delays, capsizing, and rusted service, in addition to the lack of new routes that the market is demanding and the impossibility of flying on new planes that paradoxically cannot be used on the most requested routes to the US

Finally, as a result of the downgrading to Category 2, the insurance and surety market has reacted by increasing the cost of premiums for aircraft operating in Mexico.

6.- Austerity has limits. Aviation security is one of them. You don't play with air safety. It is intensely costly, even before risking human lives.

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