MR.BEKTUROV, THERE IS AN EXCELLENT OCCASION FOR TODAY’S INTERVIEW – THE NEWS ABOUT THE POSITIVE RESULTS OF ICAO VALIDATION MISSION. CAN WE HOPE THAT AFTER THE REMOVAL FROM THE “BLACKLIST”, THE EUROPEAN SKIES WILL BE OPEN FOR OUR AIRLINES?
That’s right, it’s great news. Over the past few years we have considerably improved the quality of the service in the sphere of aviation, first of all the level of flight safety and compliance with the international standards. In March and April the ICAO validation mission carried out their regular audit, and the results of the audit confirmed removal of the observations for our country. We have received an official letter confirming the positive results of the validation mission. It lets us hope that the restrictions for the flights of Kazakh airlines in the EU zone will be removed. For the past six years the removal from the blacklist (the EU Air Safety List – Ed.) has been our priority. We have done a lot of work and now we can be certain that our safety systems and procedures comply with all international standards.
LET’S TALK ABOUT THE ICAO AUDIT COMPLETED IN 2009, WHOSE RESULTS WERE THE BASIS FOR BANNING OUR AIRLINES AND ADDING THEM TO THE EU BLACKLIST.
The EU blacklist appeared in the mid-2000s. The European Union decided that the flights to European cities should be banned for the airlines that hadn’t undergone ICAO audit to prove the compliance with the established safety standards and, therefore, according to the EU opinion, could be potentially dangerous for general international flight safety.
In 2009 ICAO performed the audit of the whole Kazakh civil aviation. The results identified 80 concerns, two of them were significant ones. The EU made the decision to ban the flights of Kazakh airlines in the EU zone on the basis of these two concerns. This is how we ended up in the blacklist.
Later the process of achieving the ICAO standards commenced. The work has been done by the efforts of the Ministry of Transport and Communications of the Republic of Kazakhstan. This was our primary task and I, being the Vice-Minister, was a supervisor of this work.
Within the first four years we managed to eliminate almost all insignificant concerns which were mainly some minor unconformities that didn’t affect the safety directly. Also, one of the major concerns was eliminated. In 2014 the ICAO audit registered the remarkable progress but also placed the emphasis on the last serious concern. That became the focus of our work during the last two years.
THE REMOVAL FROM THE BLACKLIST TOOK LONG SIX YEARS. DO YOU THINK IT WAS THE RIGHT DECISION OF ICAO AND THE EU TO RESTRICT THE FLIGHTS OF THE KAZAKH AIRLINES?
Now, over time, I can say that the negative results of the ICAO audit together with the EU restrictions gave an impetus to cardinal positive changes in the civil aviation of Kazakhstan.
Impossibility of flights to Europe had a double meaning for us. On the one hand we wanted to minimize the financial losses occurring due to the restriction of the flights over the EU zone which are of high demand. On the other hand we were aspiring to be out of the blacklist of the countries whose airlines are considered to be unsafe. It is an important issue, an issue of the country’s image. The problems of the civil aviation were raised at the highest level and the issue was controlled by the Head of the country. The required system reforms were implemented thanks to the systematic and well-coordinated work of all the involved authorities and the Parliament.
It was clear back then that implementation of corrections would not be a fast process. The changes concerned many spheres, starting from the personnel training, legal framework and many others. We saw the example of Indonesia: it took the country 6 years to implement the corrections on the basis of ICAO concerns similar to those made for us. We saw the whole immense scope of work and understood the steps we had to take and we could clearly see that in our country such process would also take a long time.
WHAT EXACTLY WERE THE CONCERNS OF ICAO ABOUT? AND WHAT WAS DONE TO RESOLVE THEM?
The main concern was about the issue of the certificate of airworthiness to airlines and aircrafts. The ICAO audit 2009
identified and emphasized the lack of qualified inspectors to carry out certification. The Civil Aviation Committee (CAC) was insufficient in terms of staff quality and quantity. At that moment there were over 50 airlines, over 600 aircrafts and 22 airports in the country while the CAC staff number didn’t exceed 30 people. Many things have changed since that time. We’ve made a lot of amendments to the legislation as well as at the sublegislative level. We have hired and trained new inspectors. The number of CAC staff has increased and the level of their qualification, their status and payment rate have improved, too. The changes concerned almost all the aspects of aviation, including the requirements of the aviation authorities for airports and air navigation nowadays. Upon the completion of the integrated reforming we state, and ICAO confirms it, that the supervision over the Kazakh aviation and certification of airlines are arranged at the proper level and in compliance with all required procedures. This is precisely why the last serious remark of ICAO has been removed.
In general the compliance of the Kazakh aviation with the ICAO standards is confirmed as 74%. Considering the fact that the average level of compliance with European standards is about 76%, we are getting closer to the indicators that used to be considered as our benchmarks. We can be content with the job done and a significant progress.
THE SUCCESSFUL ICAO VALIDATION MISSION HAS OPENED A POSSIBILITY FOR REMOVAL OF RESTRICTIONS. WHAT OTHERS STEPS SHALL KAZAKHSTAN MAKE TO BE OUT OF THE BLACKLIST COMPLETELY?
Removal from the EU blacklist is the next step. Now when there are no serious concerns, which were the reasons for the ban, we have reached out to the Air Safety Board of European Commission. The meetings are arranged twice a year. Supposedly the official presentation of the ICAO validation mission in Kazakhstan will take place at the next meeting. Of course the respective department of European Commission has been notified about the results of the audits and all our actions since we have an established connection. It is necessary to formally complete all the procedures and we hope the EU is not going to have any other reasons to keep the Kazakh aviation in the blacklist.
All this story with the audit and the restrictions has led us to establish constant contacts with ICAO. Our relations have reached a new level and have turned into strong partner relations. This is an important aspect that should be noted separately.
For a long time Kazakhstan used to be a passive member of ICAO since we didn’t have contacts and didn’t always understand the importance of having them. We didn’t use to participate in their events either. ICAO is an international organization which plays a key role in the aviation and calls its members for active interaction when it comes to the issues of civil aviation development all over the world.
Within a brief period of time we’ve managed to improve our relations with ICAO by demonstrating our serous intentions and balanced position in the sphere of international co-operation. Kazakh specialists of various levels have started active participation in international events, and we have started arranging ICAO events in our country. We’ve built good partner relations with ICAO Paris Regional Office which we refer to, and with the headquarters in Montreal.
All of that made Kazakhstan a full active participant of the international aviation sphere. This could not stay unnoticed at the higher level. In the recent years the ICAO Secretary General and the directors of various offices have been to Kazakhstan with formal visit several times. Next year the newly appointed ICAO Secretary General, Ms Fang Lui, is planning to visit Kazakhstan by our invitation. I reckon the strengthening of our positions at the international level is one of the factors that makes a positive effect on our results.
In general, the positive tendencies are making us happy. Meanwhile it is necessary to keep improving the Kazakh aviation. We should sustain and improve the achieved level of compliance with the ICAO international requirements, and of course we keep working.
A QUESTION FOR YOU AS THE GENERAL DIRECTOR OF “KAZAERONAVIGATSIA” RSE. WHAT WAS DONE WITHIN THE FRAMEWORK OF THE ICAO AUDIT IN THE SPHERE OF AIR NAVIGATION SERVICE SAFETY CONTROL?
When I worked in the Ministry (as the Vice-Minister of Transport and Communications of the Republic of Kazakhstan – Ed.) the responsibility for corrective measures and representation of the country in relations with ICAO used to be my duty. By order of the Minister I keep doing it nowadays after becoming the Head of “Kazaeronavigatsia” RSE. From the very first day in the position I have been paying a lot of attention to the aspects of the company’s compliance with the international standards.
“Kazaeronavigatsia” has made a big contribution to the success of the validation mission. Initially the compliance results of air navigation weren’t bad – about 70%. But now the Kazak air navigation level compliance with the ICAO requirements has grown up to 88%. We think it’s not the top limit and we’re working hard to improve even more.
WHAT OUR AVIATION AUTHORITIES ARE EXPECTING IN THE NEAR FUTURE AND WHAT ACTIONS WILL BE TAKEN?
I believe a visit of the EU Commission representatives is expected. It is the EU position and their standard procedure that we know and have agreed about. They will come to Kazakhstan to have a look at the situation and make sure that the cardinal reforming has actually taken place. At that, the main focus will be at the supervision quality. Then we shall expect the voting of the EU countries for the removal of the restrictions. The main difficulty is that the decision must be unanimous. As you can see, it’s not an easy process, it has a strict procedure, but I suppose that everything should be resolved within a year. It should be noted that two years ago we managed to achieve a positive decision for AirAstana airlines. The restrictions concerning the growth of the quantity of flights and extension of flight geography were removed. Back then the airlines and we together made the work to prove its safety. We achieved the results: New destinations have been opened, for example, Astana – Paris and Astana – London. Today the flight geography keeps extending. So what’s next? Removal from the EU blacklist is a serious achievement both from the point of view of the image and the material angle. Now it’s not only AirAstana but other Kazakh airlines that can open new routes to and from Europe. This means growth of tourist possibilities for our citizens and guests of Kazakhstan with all following advantages and investments to the economics of aviation.
RECENTLY THE PLANS TO OPEN NEW ROUTES TO THE MAIN WORLD’S FINANCIAL CENTERS – NEW YORK, TOKYO AND SINGAPORE – HAVE BEEN ANNOUNCED. HOW DOES THE REMOVAL FROM THE BLACKLIST INFLUENCE THE OPENING OF NEW DESTINATIONS IN ASIA AND AMERICA?
Restrictions of flights to the EU are the indicator of a county’s aviation safety level that is considered all over the world. Our aviation is not an exception. During the negotiations on the opening of new routes, the aviation authorities of many countries pointed at the restrictions of flights to the EU zone. We were asked embarrassing questions and our safety used to be questioned: “How safe are you? At what level do you meet the requirements?”. For instance, the requirements of the USA authorities are much stricter. By seeing the restrictions for flights to some areas they are unlikely to permit the flights to their territory. So the removal from the blacklist is surely going to assist our airlines in successful development of their business.
To conclude I’d like to express special gratitude to the Head of the country. Without his support we wouldn’t have been able to complete the tasks we had. We are also grateful to the Government and the Ministry that united the efforts to implement the corrective measures in the aviation and to the Parliament that supported the suggested amendments to the legislation. I also want to thank the specialists of ICAO and the EU we worked with for their will to meet us halfway on the issues and the support in solution of many hard tasks. And special thanks to all the workers of the aviation industry for their cohesion in implementing the tasks assigned for the progress of our aviation.
THANK YOU FOR THE INTERVIEW.