Thursday, December 24, 2015

Regulating The Regulator: How The Department of Civil Aviation Keeps Us Flying High, And Safe

Most people are familiar with the role of the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) in ensuring that our commercial operators meet the highest safety standards and what happened recently when those safety standards failed to be met at all times. In this article, the Malaysian Digest looks at the stringent global standards that the DCA itself has to meet, at all times.

In setting the strict benchmark for the Malaysian aviation industry, the DCA itself is subjected to extremely stringent global commercial aviation operations and safety standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

The process includes a stringent audit by ICAO as part of the Universal Safety Oversight Audit Program (USOAP).

If the audit finds that DCA's standards are not up to mark, the ICAO may "downgrade" its status. It's as simple and straightforward as that, a DCA official assures. Needless to say, the implications of a downgrade can be really adverse for the relevant country.

While the ICAO does not have any authority or jurisdiction to compel a DCA to upgrade its standards (i.e. regulation, processes, documentation, operation, monitoring and supervision and audit of commercial carriers documents, processes and safety inspection and procedures), the international body's downgrade could hurt the relevant country's aviation industry.

The category stature after an ICAO audit would effect how the carriers originating from the said country be treated when they fly into a country of stricter policy, practices and monitoring by the commercial aviation authority. As a consequence, this revision of status category would adversely affect commercial operations and, eventually, public perception towards the commercial carrier.

Case in point is the ICAO revision of status for Thailand recently. The ICAO downgrade trickled into the United States FAA treatment of commercial aircraft originated from Thailand and has these consequence effect:

"In other words," the DCA official said, "we have no choice but to adhere to the ICAO standards at all times". The regulator is also regulated.

In these challenging times, where global issues such as demand for higher comfort and service standards, efficiency and coupled with external factors such as terrorism and chronic armed and hostile conflicts, the requirement for DCA to move up and forward is pertinent to ensure progress for the Malaysian commercial aviation.

The DCA's ability to comply with the stringent ICAO rules and standards and continue to uphold these global practices and standards is an enabler for both the lateral and horizontal growth for the Malaysia commercial aviation.

It has consequential trickle-down effects on carriers, tourism, logistics, trade and advertising and promotion, among others.

In contrast with the gloomy global economic climate, Malaysia's tourism industry remains bullish. Tourist arrivals through commercial air travel, especially, are expected to grow.

The security of airports in Malaysia, which is under DCA supervision and regular ICAO audits, translates into market confidence that, in turn, influences people's decision to come to Malaysia for holiday as well as to do business.

As the demand and growth of commercial aviation industry grows, and the threats against it increases as well, we can expect the DCA's role to become even more crucial.


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