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Thailand hopeful “red flag” status could be lifted soon

Thailand is becoming increasingly optimistic that the “red flag” status slapped on them by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) for significant safety concerns (SSC) could be lifted after numerous positive signs during the UN aviation watchdog recently wrapped up their field audit.

The ICAO team, however, have declined to issue a comment regarding the audit until further assessment at their headquarters in Montreal can be finished.

The team has told the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT) that the official findings would be posted on the ICAO’s website in the middle of October.

“We sensed some positive response from the ICAO team,” shared a senior CAAT official, who asked for anonymity.

Thai aviation executives who dealt with the ICAO team also shared the CAAT’s sentiments. The ICAO team was quoted as saying it saw “improvement” in the CAAT’s aviation safety oversight compared with what they witnessed back in 2015.

Back then, ICAO uncovered 572 flaws in its examination of the CAAT’s safety standards, with 33 classified as crucial enough to warrant a red flag in June of that year.

Subsequently, the US Federal Aviation Administration demoted Thailand to Category II status. ICAO has said that SSC status does not essentially mean a particular safety deficiency in air navigation service providers, airlines, aircraft or aerodromes.

SSC implies that the state is not delivering ample safety oversight to guarantee effective implementation of applicable ICAO standards.

Thailand is one of six countries that currently has a “red flag” status. The others are Djibouti, Eritrea, Haiti, Kyrgyzstan and Malawi.

An important piece of lifting the red flag is the CAAT’s capability to recertify the air operator certificates (AOCs) of 10 Thai-registered carriers in strict compliance with ICAO rules.

These entities, which include Thai Airways International, Thai AirAsia and Thai Lion Air, are responsible for the vast majority of international passenger traffic carried by all Thai-registered airlines.  Eleven other operators are awaiting AOC recertification. Until then, they are prohibited from flying overseas.

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