“Now every Juan can fly!” so says a familiar ad by Cebu Pacific, now the leading carrier in terms of passenger volume.
But the question is: how safely are we flying?
It came as quite a shock to me to read the well-researched, comprehensive report by PSA (Pacific Strategies & Assessments), an international business risk consultancy group on the Philippine civil aviation industry. PSA feeds information to its high-profile clients which include multinational corporations. So yes, they must know what they’re saying.:D
The salient points of what they say are the ills plaguing the aviation industry:
Insufficient aircraft care and maintenance. Honestly, I never thought there’s a Bangkal or Banawe style of maintenance in the airline industry. But according to the report, “approximately 10% of civil aviation parts in use are counterfeit.”
“Currently in the Philippines, there are no government enforced requirements for tracking aircraft parts from their manufacturing source to the airline that purchases them, which allows unscrupulous air carriers to acquire and employ counterfeit parts. The more dated the fleet, particularly over 15 years, the more likely the counterfeit, unapproved, and perhaps faulty parts are being used because certified aircraft vendors no longer produce replacements,” the report said.
Diploma mills. It is true that a substantial number of foreigners go to the Philippines to study flying. The demand of the profession has also spawned corruption in some aviation training schools which have been found to have issued fake commercial pilot licenses to insufficiently-trained students. No less than CAAP has also uncovered irregularities in the conduct of airmen’s examinations.
Poor runway infrastructure. According to the report: “The Philippines currently ranks last among the ASEAN-6 in the World Economic Forum index on air transport infrastructure. There are only four airports in the Philippines with runways capable of hosting an emergency landing from an aircraft the size of Boeing 777 or larger. The majority of regional airport runways are not fitted with lights to accommodate night or poor visibility landings. (Reports) of runway deterioration have caused flight delays, cancellations, and even minor accidents.”
Our air traffic management system and navigational aids are obsolete. “Reportedly, over 50% (of the NavAids) have already reached their 15-year serviceable life and are due for replacement while all of them are past due for calibration,” the report added.
Pollution and weather. Symbols of bad weather such as typhoons, flooding and strong winds can cause flight cancellations. Widespread air pollution causes a situation where ” visibility is reduced by 50% upon entering Manila airspace, making landing a plane using visual techniques difficult and dangerous.”
Plagued by politics, lack of oversight and efficient regulatory supervision on the part of the government aviation bodies, the Philippines has seen its international aviation ratings drop immensely. PAL’s flights within the US were limited and no Philippine carrier has been allowed to fly to Europe. This, in turn, has impacted greatly on Philippine tourism and the number of tourists coming into the country.