Thursday, March 6, 2008

Foreign commercial pilots to face tougher scrutiny

BOONSONG KOSITCHOTETHANA
Foreign commercial pilots will face tougher scrutiny if they want to work for airlines and civil air service providers based in Thailand.
The new regulations are meant to prevent less qualified pilots from working for any Thailand-based air service providers as well as flying private aircraft as part of a new bid to improve flight safety.
The regulation, prepared by the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA), will be published as a royal decree no later than 90 days from now. It was prompted by recent serious incidents in Thai skies that involved foreign pilots.
On Sept 16 last year, the budget carrier One-Two-Go Airlines' MD-82 jetliner went down in strong winds and heavy rain after attempting to land at Phuket Airport. The crash left 89 dead and 41 injured. On Dec 15, an MD-80 flown by One-Two-Go was in a ''near-collision'' with Nok Airlines' Boeing 737-400 over Nakhon Sawan.
All of One-Two-Go's pilots were recruited from overseas. Many of them were from Indonesia, where air safety records are among the world's worst.
According to DCA deputy director-general Wuthichai Singhamanee, foreign pilots will be required to learn about the Thai aviation laws. They will be tested on regulations and their ability to communicate well in the cockpit.
Authorities say foreign pilots must undergo Cockpit Crew Resource Management (CRM) training to overcome any possible cultural differences between them and those under their command.
The CRM requirement became essential after DCA found in its inspections that Thailand-based airlines that employ foreign pilots suffered from these problems, thus posing a potential danger.
Furthermore, pilot competency in flying certain aircraft would be subject to closer scrutiny by the DCA, which will no longer authorise permits by merely looking at documents submitted or matching them with licences issued by authorities in other countries.
This means that DCA officials would personally cross-check a pilot's competency in flying a certain aircraft in his last session on a flight simulator, Mr Wuthichai told the Bangkok Post.
The additional requirements are not unique. Aviation regulators in countries including India, China and Malaysia have also applied them to foreign pilots.
The new regulations are likely to affect three Thailand-based airlines _ One-Two-Go and its parent Orient Thai Airlines, as well as Phuket Airlines _ whose fleets are flown almost entirely by foreign pilots. Their pilots are Indonesians, Australians and Filipinos.
Airlines in Thailand use foreign pilots partly because of a shortage of Thai pilots trained to fly specific aircraft and partly because they are are cheaper to hire. Most Thailand-based airlines use Thai pilots. The cockpit staff of Thai Airways International, which numbers nearly 1,400, are exclusively Thai.
Thai pilots are not subject to the new DCA rules because they are all trained in Thai aviation law.

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