Published On: Mon, Mar 2nd, 2015

My experience with AVA Airways

CS100-over-beachWhen the new aviation company AVA Airways announced their intention and desire to enter into the commercial aviation environment on the Caribbean Dutch Kingdom Island Countries of Sint Maarten and Curacao. Honestly I was hoping they can fill a void in the air transportation industry.  I started out both excited and enthusiastic about the prospects of them reaching their goals in the long term and getting to see if the wheels of government were turning in the right direction in the short term towards handling the delicate process of bringing AVA goal to fruition.

Having personally made inquiry and seen that the AVA group including its co founder Olivier Arrindell  had done most of their homework, in lieu of aircraft purchases, such as meeting with Airbus regional representatives and aircraft certified mechanics, members of Parliaments and political parties, FAA advisors, the CCAA Director Mr. Derby and their administrators, the groups financial backers and general consultants in the field of aviation, I decided to comment on this matter to bring a certain light to this topic of interest. This critique and opinion was brought about when certain issues on the matter were presented within the public domain.

As a Sint Maartener and resident who happens to be a holder of a Department of Transportation private pilot certificate with over 1100hrs in single and multiengine land airplanes beside having flown locally and in the America’s.  As well as, having achieved the rank of Captain in the USAF Auxiliary “Civil Air Patrol” being qualified in the area of Search and Rescue, communications, ground and air searches (including pilot, observer and scanner)..Thus I have become familiar with the National Aviation Authority which is responsible for issuance of the Certificate of Airworthiness (standard or special airworthiness certificates), FAA policy and procedures for type certifications, pilot certification, Bi-annual pilot flight reviews, medical requirements and ect…NTSB, Dept of Transportation, everything about airports, controlled and uncontrolled airspace, policies and many other aspects of aviation or things related.

So after reading that an SOAB audit was completed, deficiencies were highlighted that were fixed and amended by AVA which resulting in a positive advise report from the SOAB. At that I knew that it would take more than a business plan audit to get any aircraft type to the level of being airworthy or receiving a Certificate of Airworthiness.

First and foremost AVA aircraft must be Registered (given a permanent call sign), this is the writing we see boldly written usually aft of the plane. Once registered with call sign and a registered owners name is matched to the aircraft.  AVA has registered aircrafts, no doubt. Then the aircraft must go through a complete systemic inspection of sort by a qualified (in type certification of aircraft) aviation mechanic/ inspector who is a contractor or person working under the authority of the Curacao Civil Aviation Authority. The Director doesn’t evaluate the aircraft itself unless he is fully qualified in type and responsibly holds the nomenclature of aviation mechanic/ inspector. But in these times whereby government transparency is policy a conflict of interest is likely and the fact that the Director is a politically appointed position makes it imperative for a person to hold a single position within the CCAA.

I can say that since the economy of Curacao and Sint Maarten need this boost in free market economy and have shown business plans approved to the point of needing the aircraft now to go through the Certificate of Airworthiness assessment and evaluation. Only to find out that the process is being held up by Administrative wrangling or claims of no money. Which is needed to bring in qualified aviation mechanics, (whether on contract or an employable inspector) to inspect the A 320 and other newer model aircrafts.. This must be done to remain in compliance to FAA, as International Civil Aviation Org. (a United Nations Specialized Agency) and other countries includingEuropean Union and targeted South American countries aviation authorities may have slight difference in rating categories.

It is also to protect the consumer or traveler and well as those who utilize such aircrafts. Not to mention the millions of Guilders, Dollars and Euros that won’t materialize into economic revenue for these  tourist driven and fragile economies of both Sint Maarten and Curacao.

Air transportation and air safety go hand in hand. So a standard airworthiness certificate ceases to be valid when the aircraft ceases to be registered and remains valid as long as it meets its approved type design and is in a condition for safe operation, requiring it to receive maintenance, preventive maintenance, and any considerable alteration needed to meet relevant requirements and aircraft standards to remain registered by the CCAA or other mentioned embodiment.

Since the FAA downgraded the Curacao and Sint Maarten Airports and imposed their compliance and enforcement program on the administrative Directorship of the CCAA or remain at the downgraded status until such things out of compliance were returned to appropriate level. Many concerned citizens and travelers alike have wondered what it will take to return to the previous status of operation. Most believe the downgrade relates indirectly to the attacks on the World Trade buildings and the subsequent creation and enactment of the “Patriot Act” (whose impact was felt in the civil aviation arena around the world). But the real story as I understand it is this:

The downgrade was consistent with the safety ratings from Category One down to Category Two. Before 10/10/10 the Netherlands Antilles held an International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) Category One rating. After becoming individual countries according to the FAA:

I Quote: A Category Two rating means a country either lacks laws or regulations necessary to oversee air carriers in accordance with minimum international standards, or that its civil aviation authority- 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.

Before 10/10/10 the IASA rating was based on ICAO standards (United Nations Specialized Agency) and not the FAA. (Here is where the Patriot Act did have influence)

So any new company or additional aircraft owned and operated from either Sint Maarten or Curacao after 10/10/10. Entering with flights into US airports had to be rated under Category One. An exception for Insel Air was made; which was allowed to continue flights into US cities under rating Category Two with stronger scrutiny from FAA inspectors. END QUOTE

That brings me back to this crucial point: that CCAA is deficient in areas including, technical expertise, trained personnel, and inspection procedures. Why do I say this? They haven’t been able to inspect the aircraft of the AVA GROUP. Why not? They don’t have trainedpersonal to inspect, repair, service the type of aircraft that is used in today’s advanced aviation community.

This downgrade issue originating from CCAA inaptness to rectify these known deficiencies, which result in a great loss of revenue by all parties… with safety concerns being paramount to aircraft certification of airworthiness, the FAA will not budge from sustaining the downgrade. As this doesn’t affect aircraft based in the USA or Europe transporting and doing commerce between SXM or CUR and the USA. They will continue to monopolize the market.

But further downturn is preventable as it must be assumed that the expectation of the CCAA is to regulate and not to be relegated to being regulated by a foreign agency.  So whenever possible the two should be inter-related but separately controlled as the relationship should be mutually satisfying. Also to prevent conflicts in policy another agency or autonomous group within CCAA should be created as a safety board to investigate issues that may place the CCAA directorship/administration into a position whereby clear conflict of interest, or personal investment, can be ruled out when it comes to accidents, incidents with aircraft, or shootings in and around airport terminal that is owned and operated outside of the domain of CCAA and by the municipality.

In order to be pro active I suggest that the AVA group boldly support their own interests and that of the aviation community and the public by facilitating the process of getting qualified individuals to perform mechanical maintenance, repairs, services, for all of the aircraft that they will be utilizing and to propose to leadership a way in which contract/employment can occur to enable the professional development of existing CCAA inspectors, the support of recruitment to bring in qualified individuals, scholarship to promote mechanics and inspector level skill set, since they have the aircraft the manufacturer will make available all manuals, or Notams, or experts in the field for each model and through this collaborative effort they come together with CCAA whether under new or remaining leadership so that this is not going to be another opportunity lost due to personal differences, conflicts of interest or lack of focus on what this will mean for the Island Countries of Sint Maarten and Curacao in the future both short and long term..

The people want and need this. The economy needs this. The Countries need this. The world is watching to see the stability of the two nations within the Kingdom. This is a good plan that needs to be given a positive report to promote tourism, safe and modern transportation and air travel, economic freedom from Holland, civic pride for the accomplishment, and removing of the deficiencies in the Category Two rating, so as to return to Category One again.

By Private Pilot Joseph Okon

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