Thai 747 at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport
Thai 747 at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport

All Thai airlines flights that serve Australia are as of today branded as coming under inadequate safety oversights from its national aviation agencies as a result of ICAO and American FAA downgrades.

Whether the consequences of those downgrades are fair or unfair to Thai International, which is Thailand’s major flag carrier, is beside the point. Thailand’s capacity to properly administer air safety compliance by any of its airlines, or for that matter, airports, is now under a very dark cloud.

This is how John Goglia, a former long serving member of the US National Transportation Safety Board, summarised the situation in Forbes a short time ago.

The Federal Aviation Administration announced this morning that Thailand’s aviation safety rating has been downgraded from Category 1 to Category 2.  This means that the FAA has determined that Thailand does not meet international safety standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization, referred to as ICAO. As a result of the downgrade, Thai airlines can continue existing service to the US but no new service will be allowed.  In addition, US airlines will not be able to code share with Thai airlines.

According to the FAA’s statement, the category 2 rating means “the country either lacks laws or regulations necessary to oversee air carriers in accordance with minimum international standards, or its civil aviation authority – a body equivalent to the FAA for aviation safety matters – is deficient in one or more areas, such as technical expertise, trained personnel, record-keeping, or inspection procedures.”  In addition, the FAA indicated that Thailand has had a history of ups and downs with its aviation safety ratings.  It was initially assessed a Category 2 in 1996, which was upgraded to Category 1 in 1997. Reassessments in 2001 and 2008 continued the Category 1 rating.  However, an FAA reassessment in July 2015 found that Thailand did not meet international standards.

Plane Talking reported the initial red flagging of Thai air safety by the FAA back in July.

Whatever concerns Qantas might privately have about the competency of Thai air safety administration concerning its air space or airports in the light of ICAO and FAA disapproval, the consequences of such a downgrade being visited on Australia’s aviation regulators ought never be disregarded.

The public administration of aviation in this country is farcical and profoundly incapable of performing its obligations as evidenced in the Pel-Air saga and the notable inability of CASA to oversight that operation or tell the truth about the situation following an internal review.

Australia has talked a great deal about delivering better safety administration outcomes in recent years. Yet it hasn’t delivered on any of the rhetoric. Lots of PR bullshit, sod all material results.

There are in this, some similarities with the inertia exhibited by Thai authorities that ought not be lost on Australia’s flag carriers, who could like Thai International, find themselves seriously penalised by a failure of process in Canberra that isn’t of their own doing.

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