Wednesday, November 29, 2023

A year later and Mexico hasn’t yet recovered its top-tier aviation safety rating

Almost a year has passed since the United States government downgraded Mexico’s aviation safety rating, and there are signs that it won’t recover the top-tier rating after a new assessment in June.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced May 25, 2021, that it had downgraded Mexico from Category 1 to Category 2 after finding that it didn’t meet standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a specialized agency of the United Nations.

“The FAA identified several areas of noncompliance with minimum ICAO safety standards,” the aviation authority said in a statement at the time.

The downgrade prevented Mexican airlines from adding new flights to the United States.

Aviation experts cited by the newspaper Reforma said that efforts by aviation authorities to recover Mexico’s Category 1 rating are not going well.

Gabriel Rojas noted the recent problems with Navigation Services for Mexican Airspace (Seneam), whose director was dismissed after pilots of a Volaris plane narrowly averted a disaster earlier this month after they were cleared to land on a runway occupied by another aircraft at Mexico City International Airport (AICM). A similar incident occurred last Wednesday.

In addition to the problems with Seneam, Rojas claimed that the AFAC has covered up problems with regard to aviation safety in Mexico. He also said that the Federal Civil Aviation Authority (AFAC) hasn’t shown it has the capacity to address the deficiencies outlined by the FAA, which included concerns about the lack of training of personnel and delays in updating aviation laws and regulations.

In addition, Rojas said that putting an end to corruption in public agencies with links to the aviation sector is urgent, as is dismissing any officials who don’t contribute to it being strengthened.

Rogelio Rodríguez, a former executive with AFAC’s predecessor, told Reforma that the aviation authority hasn’t taken any decisive action that will help Mexico regain its Category 1 rating.

No additional resources have been allocated to address the FAA’s concerns, he said, adding that there has been a “chain of systematic failures in the [aviation] sector due to the lack of training of key personnel, such as [air traffic] controllers.”

When raising concerns earlier this month about safety at the Mexico City airport, the International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations said it appeared that air traffic controllers at the AICM have received “little training and support” as to how to direct flights operating in the new airspace configuration precipitated by the opening of the Felipe Ángeles International Airport north of the capital.

The National Air Traffic Controllers Union subsequently acknowledged that its members lack training.

Rosario Avilés, another aviation expert, noted that Mexico previously recovered its Category 1 rating in just six months by investing US $500 million in the aviation sector. In response to the 2010 downgrade, the federal government hired a team of experts to deal with the problems outlined by the FAA at the time and implemented new aviation sector regulations and updated existing ones.

The response to the most recent downgrade has been hampered by the current government’s frugality, Avilés said.

“Due to the argument of austerity, not enough resources have been directed [to the aviation sector],” she said.

With reports from Reforma 

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