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Sun, Apr 23, 2006

FAA Raises Venezuela's Safety Rating, Likely Averting Crisis

Ban On American Planes Was Set For Tuesday

In a move that will likely avert a potential crisis that would have either banned or strictly limited flights by US airlines to and from Venezuela, the FAA announced Friday the agency upgraded the safety rating of that country's airlines to Category 1 status, following a reassessment of Venezuela's civil aviation authority.

The last time the FAA assessed Venezuela’s civil aviation authority was in 1995. Since then, two audits by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) have shown increasing improvements.

A Category 1 rating means that the civil aviation authority of Venezuela has been assessed by FAA inspectors and has been found to license and oversee air carriers in accordance with ICAO aviation safety standards. That has not been the case since the last FAA assessment in 1995, when the FAA rated Venezuela in the lesser Category 2 -- stating its airlines did not comply with ICAO standards.

As part of the FAA’s International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) program, the agency assesses the civil aviation authorities of all countries with air carriers that operate to the United States and makes that information available to the public. The assessments determine whether or not foreign civil aviation authorities are meeting ICAO safety standards, not FAA regulations.

Countries with air carriers that fly to the United States must adhere to the safety standards of ICAO, the United Nations’ technical agency for aviation that establishes international standards and recommended practices for aircraft operations and maintenance.

The FAA, with the cooperation of the host civil aviation authority, assesses countries with airlines that have operating rights to or from the United States or have requested such rights.

Specifically, the FAA determines whether a foreign civil aviation authority has an adequate infrastructure for international aviation safety oversight as defined by ICAO standards. The basic elements that the FAA considers necessary include:

  1. Laws enabling the appropriate government office to adopt regulations necessary to meet the minimum requirements of ICAO;
  2. Current regulations that meet those requirements;
  3. Procedures to carry out the regulatory requirements;
  4. Air carrier certification, routine inspection, and surveillance programs; and
  5. Organizational and personnel resources to implement and enforce the above.

Carriers from Category 2 countries are allowed to continue existing operations into the United States at current levels, but under heightened FAA surveillance. Those carriers from Category 2 countries that do not already serve the United States are not permitted to start service with their own aircraft while the country remains in Category 2 status.

US aviation authorities upgraded Venezuela's safety ranking on Friday, averting a ban that would have blocked most US airlines from flying to the country. The US Embassy in Caracas said the Federal Aviation Administration raised the safety rating of Venezuela to Category 1. The decision came after an FAA team visited Venezuela late last month to examine Venezuelan airlines' planes and procedures within the country's aviation authority.

As was reported by Aero-News, Venezuela had set an April 25 deadline for the FAA to drop the restrictions or face retaliatory measures. It had threatened to block all flights by Continental Airlines and Delta Air Lines and restrict most flights by American Airlines.

FMI: www.faa.gov, www.icao.int

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