BISHKEK (TCA) - On December 11, a roundtable discussed how Kyrgyzstan's airlines may be removed from the airline blacklist of the European Union. The meeting was attended by Erkin Isakov, Director of the Civil Aviation Agency of Kyrgyzstan, Taalaibek Okenov, President of the Association of Air Carriers, and representatives of local airlines.
Kyrgyzstan was blacklisted in 2006 after the Committee on Transport of the European Commission conducted an audit and found serious shortcomings in the flight safety. The European Commission Committee on the Air Traffic Safety concluded that the aviation authorities of Kyrgyzstan do not have sufficient capacity to implement and enforce safety standards in accordance with the obligations under the Chicago Convention. As a result, local airlines and the Civil Aviation Agency were included in the list of airlines that are banned from flights in the EU airspace.
The EU air safety regulations and the criteria for flight bans are based on the Convention on International Civil Aviation, known as the Chicago Convention. Under the Chicago Convention, the civil aviation authorities are responsible for ensuring that aircraft registered within their jurisdiction adhere to certain safety standards. These standards and recommended practices (SARPs) are laid down by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) that administers the Chicago Convention. The Chicago Convention outlines standards of aircraft operations, maintenance, equipment and training which carriers are required to maintain.
During preliminary discussions with the European Commission, it was agreed that the successful completion of the ICAO audit would be the first step towards lifting the ban for Kyrgyzstan's air carriers and delisting them from the EU air safety list. As an ICAO member, the Civil Aviation Agency of Kyrgyzstan holds a mandatory audit every five years.
ICAO representatives will come to Kyrgyzstan in 2015. They were supposed to come in August of 2014, but due to the fact that some legal documents were not brought into compliance with ICAO standards, verification of domestic airlines have not been performed.
According to Deputy Minister of Transport and Communications of Kyrgyzstan Ernis Mamyrkanov, in 2015 the Ministry will present two projects for the removal from the EU blacklist. The country has to ensure the flight safety and perform some obligations.
According to experts, is not easy to be out the blacklist. Even such advanced, compared to Kyrgyzstan, country like Kazakhstan has put a lot of effort and spent much money to withdraw at least one company from the blacklist. Recently, a national airline, Air Astana, has been removed from the blacklist because it bought Boeings of new generation. But to date, the country still remains on the EU blacklist.
Kyrgyzstan cannot afford to buy new Boeings, but it can create favorable conditions for air carriers, which will invest in the development of aviation and become profitable to buy new aircraft.
First of all, the national legislation should be brought into line with international laws. For more than 20 years the Air Code of Kyrgyzstan has not been changed, although the situation in the aviation industry has become completely different.
Private airlines support current reform of the sector, but they doubt whether the Civil Aviation Agency (CAA) has enough professionals to competently develop amendments to the Air Code.
The New Air Code will be developed in accordance with international standards and requirements of the civil aviation, taking into account the best practices of the ICAO member countries and adapted to local conditions. The new document will help start negotiations with the European Union on the exit of Kyrgyz airlines from the EU blacklist.
According to Mamyrkanov, Kyrgyzstan's legal acts have several contradictions that do not allow the industry to develop sufficiently.
Local air carriers asked to adopt the new Air Code and to make the CAA a self-financing agency in order to raise the skills of its employees.
Opinion of private business
Kyrgyzstan has failed to quit the EU blacklist for eight years because the state has not participated in the development of the industry, said President of the Association of Air Carriers of Kyrgyzstan Taalaibek Okenov. Now the situation has changed for the better, and new Deputy Minister has been actively involved in addressing the problem.
Okenov identified five steps to quit the blacklist, including bringing the legislation into conformity with the ICAO standards, cooperating with USAID, strengthening the CAA capacity, and training of aviation inspectors that supervise flight safety. The final step is the development of documentation. By working effectively together with all stakeholders Kyrgyzstan can be withdrawn from the EU blacklist in one year or two.
Currently, a working group headed by Okenov is working on a state program for the civil aviation development until 2020. The program aims to depoliticize the Civil Aviation Agency of Kyrgyzstan in order to avoid frequent changes of managers for political reasons. Since 2006, the CAA heads have been changed six times, so it is hard to talk about any consistent and systematic work in the industry.
It is also planned to strengthen the supervisory authority. Currently, the CAA develops policies, and also controls its execution.
The Civil Aviation Agency plans to develop aviation regulations that will harmonize with the EU aviation regulations, CAA Director Erkin Isakov said during his meeting with Carsten Theil, a consultant from the Integra European Program, and Cesare de Montis, EU Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan.
Cesare de Montis promised that the EU will support the ongoing work of the CAA and, at the first phase of the cooperation, the EU will assist in organizing a working meeting between the CAA and the leadership of the relevant committee of the EU in Brussels to discuss removing of Kyrgyz air companies from the EU blacklist.