WILLEMSTAD - Linking the loss of InselAir to the lack of the FAA Category 1 is not correct. This is according to Hans de Jong, aviation expert and former director-general of the Curaçao Civil Aviation Authority (CCAA). He responds to the article "Contrary to situation Curaçao: Costa Rica back to FAA Category 1" that was published last week.
"InselAir's problems were more fundamental than Category 1 status." De Jong acknowledges that it has indeed not been possible to get the airport of Curaçao to the coveted FAA status after more than ten years. He does not wish to apologize for his part in this, but says that it is easy to indicate why that has not yet been successful, while noting that Curaçao is on the right track.
“Both my predecessor, Oscar Derby, and myself have focused on increasing the deployment of people and (financial) resources. The number of people needed to make CCAA a full authority is still insufficient at this point. Proposals have been made to the government for this, but unfortunately to my knowledge the vacancies have still not been filled.”
The financial problems of the government are to blame for this, according to De Jong. “Structurally, CCAA has a long series of years since 10-10-10, with insufficient financial resources from the national budget to achieve what is needed from the ICAO requirements. The current minister of Traffic, Transport and Spatial Planning (VVRP) has done her best, but without tapping additional money or flows for the financing of the activities of CCAA, Curaçao can forget to achieve FAA Cat 1 status.”
According to De Jong, this is not news. “Parliament is also aware of this information. Aviation legislation and regulations are outdated, and the draft legislation is not (yet) for assessment by Parliament, as it has not been officially completed.”
The COVID pandemic and the lack of money and legislative lawyers are taking their toll, according to De Jong. “These three aspects form the foundations based on which ICAO compliance / FAA Cat 1 status can be achieved. The assignment at the time was to bring Curaçao back to FAA Cat 1 status.”
“Halfway through this marathon, it turned out that ICAO wanted to audit the Kingdom, with the emphasis on Curaçao. All efforts to comply with the ICAO requirements and thus all ICAO Annexes put a heavy burden on the organization, which had neither sufficient people nor the resources.
In recent years, the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management has given De Jong an excellent level of assistance in meeting the ICAO requirements, given the backlog that the CCAA had in the aforementioned areas. In addition to complying with ICAO requirements and thus implicitly also FAA requirements, the normal inspection and support work continued as usual.
“The (re) certification of Curaçao Airport Partners (CAP) and Jetair and the preparations for the certification of the Approved Maintenance Organization for Airline Technical Support Caribe (ATS) are the most striking examples of this,” says De Jong.
“Of course, the outcome of the ICAO audit was disappointing, especially since expectations were high. But an analysis of the audit results shows that the shortcomings in the system are relatively easy to resolve, especially when a solution is found for the shortage of people and resources. That seems like a great challenge for the new government of Curaçao.”
Without political commitment and sufficient budget for CCAA, it will not work, says De Jong. “As the Dutch aviation memorandum also indicates, it is the government's concern to find a balance between the various themes that are of public interest and to direct them. The still lack of an established aviation policy for Curaçao makes it difficult to arrive at a consistent assessment framework.”
Economy, environment, safety, and connectivity / accessibility are inextricably linked, according to the aviation expert. “This is also a great challenge for the future ministers of VVRP, MEO (Economy) and Finance. There is already a forum for cooperation within the Kingdom, namely the steering group, consisting of the Directors of Aviation. Breathe new life into this club by seeing what binds us and what separates us, and the solutions seem to be available. In my opinion, the cross-border aspect of aviation requires that,” says De Jong.