QCOSTARICA – Costa Rica could soon recover it’s category 1 in aeronautical safety by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) at the beginning of 2021.
At least that is the predictition of the Dirección General de Aviación Civil (DGAC – Costa Rica’s Civil Aviation – after a series of reviews carried out by that organization throughout this year.
Although the pandemic complicated the audit, Costa Rica’s aeronautical authorities made effortse to advance the process, confirmed Álvaro Vargas, Chief of Civil Aviation.
The FAA, attached to the US Department of Transportation, announced on May 13, 2019 that Costa Rica was not complying with the safety regulations of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), for which it downgraded its international rating from 1 to 2.
The FAA considered deficiencies in areas such as technical expertise, personnel training, record keeping or inspection procedures, as the country never implemented, within reasonable time frames, ICAO provisions, the United Nations specialized agency in charge of regulating world aeronautics, in the last 9 years.
Since then, this disqualification has affected the image of Costa Rica’s air safety, since only four other countries (Thailand, Bangladesh, Ghana and Curaçao) have the same score among more than 100, according to ICAO rules.
Since the announcement, the FAA agreed to advise Civil Aviation on the necessary corrections; a process that continued even into 2020, with all that it entailed in the midst of a global health emergency.
Vargas explained that all of the 22 discrepancies were overcome at the beginning of March and in April requested of the FAA a new audit.
In March, Vargas explained, the FAA informed Civil Aviation that it preferred to carry out the next audit during 2021 due to the complications brough by the pandemic.
“We insisted; We wanted to have the audit done but virtually. In the end they accepted and, for them as for us, it was the first virtual audit like this in our respective histories,” assured Vargas.
Thus, for two weeks in June, the FAA conducted an audit from which new discrepancies emerged.
As part of its analysis, the FAA focuses primarily on three areas: airworthiness, licensing of technical and aeronautical personnel, and development of aeronautical operations.
FAA authorities insisted that a face-to-face visit would still be necessary for the audit process, that according to Vargas would have been in 2021.
However, the FAA relented and a delegation visited Costa Rica from November 1 to 6, to carry out the physical audit.
“In the end, they made a verbal report with a series of observations. The formal written report of that audit has not yet been sent to us, but we hope to receive it during this month of December,” assured Vargas.
By procedure, a meeting between US and national authorities is scheduled for the next few weeks based on the findings of that report. It will be at that time when Civil Aviation presents an action plan in relation to the observations it receives.
“In this way, it would be during the first quarter of 2021 when we would have the criteria on whether the country’s categorization remains as it is now or the previous condition is recovered,” concluded Vargas.
The main disadvantage of the lower catergory is that it blocks Costa Rica’s establishing new flights to the United States or new airlines to Costa Rica.