Safer skies ahead

Safer skies ahead
Aviation Minister, Dionisio D'Aguilar.

Aviation legislation to improve safety audit score and establish independent Air Accident Investigation Authority

NASSAU, BAHAMAS- Amendments to the country’s aviation legislation that govern the investigations of air accidents could improve this country’s Safety Audit Score by 77 per cent, Tourism and Aviation Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar said yesterday.
During his contribution to the debate in Parliament on in the Aircraft Accident Authority Bill and Regulations 2019, D’Aguilar explained the legislation seeks to update the country’s aviation legislation that govern the investigation of air accidents.
It also incorporates recommendations by the United Nation’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), he said.
According to D’Aguilar, an ICAO consultant has noted that once the proposed draft legislation and regulations are promulgated and gazetted, the Bahamas’ Aircraft Accident Investigations Legislative regime would have effectively satisfied 99 of the 103 Safety Audit Protocol question raising the country’s Safety Audit score on Air Accidents.
This would raise the country’s score from a dismal 19 percent  to a much more impressive 96 percent, he said.
“What these two pieces of legislation seek to do is to incorporate into domestic legislation the 2016 and 2018 amendments to Annex 13 of the Convention on International Civil Aviation,” said D’Aguilar.
“These amendments (“Amendment 15 and 16”) to Annex 13 of the Convention on International Civil Aviation have been adopted by the United Nation’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).  As a result, and because we are a Member State of ICAO, we are expected to update our domestic legislation to incorporate these amendments to Annex 13 and that is exactly what we are doing.”
Specifically, the government is repealing Part VIII of the Civil Aviation Act 2016 (S.I. No 22 of 2016) and replacing it with the proposed Aircraft Accident Investigation Authority Bill, 2019.
Established by the United Nations in International Civil Aviation Organization in 1944, ICAO has crafted the world’s aviation rules, known as the Convention on International Civil Aviation or the Chicago Convention.
The Bahamas became a member of ICAO in 1975 and signed onto the Chicago Convention at that time.
As a signatory to the Chicago Convention, ICAO periodically visits The Bahamas and audits this nation’s effective implementation of its Standards and Recommended Practices.
D’Aguilar noted that during the period October 23rd to November 3rd, 2017, The Bahamas was the subject of an ICAO Safety Audit, which found the accident investigation department largely non-compliant with the standards and recommended practices of Annex 13 to the Chicago Convention.
“The Air Accident Investigation Department swooped into action and completed a corrective action plan which addressed every standard and recommended practice of Amendments 15 and 16 of Annex 13 and that resulted in the drafting of the proposed Bill and Regulations,” said D’Aguilar.
He noted that the legislation creates an Air Accident Investigation Authority which shall be functionally independent from all other state aviation authorities and other entities that could interfere with the conduct or objectivity of an investigation.
D’Aguilar said the Government has executed an agreement with Aviation Registry Group out of Miami to assist in significantly improving that effective implementation score, and provide a solid foundation in the aviation sector to successfully launch the country’s new aircraft registry.
He added the government had a lot of work to do to “get all of our ducks in a row” before its next full audit in 15 months.
During his contribution to the debate, Exuma and Ragged Island MP Chester Cooper underscored concerns over the legislation’s impact on those who participate in the industry who as most vulnerable.
“One area where we want to see protections for those in the industry and to protect the integrity of the AAIA, is where conflicts of interest may arise,” Cooper said.
“The legislation details where conflicts of interest might arise. This must be properly policed to international best practice. This is critical.
“This does beg the question of how you compose the authority with competent people from the industry who remain at arms-length with the industry.”
Englerston MP and Shadow Aviation Minister Glenys Hanna Martin also raised questions over the Nassau Airport Development Company (NAD) agreement.
“The NAD agreement was extended we are hearing for another 10 years,” she said.
“There has been no formal  advice to the Bahamian people about what you have done and what cost, why and there is a level of accountability.
“You must come to the Bahamian people and rationalize why you are doing what you are doing,” Hanna-Martin said.
“The original agreement was was for 10 years, extended for one year and then came to and end. It is now extend fo ran additional decade or more, I have no idea, no one knows. It is incumbent that you account to the Bahamian people about what you have done with the management at LPIA.”