Above, representatives of the Panama Autoridad Aeronautica Civil (AAC), the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and The Wicks Group (TWG) gather at the conclusion of Diplomatic Consultation. During these discussions, AAC personnel presented evidence of compliance with international standards for aviation safety to their FAA counterparts.
On September 10, 2018, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) formally informed the Government of Panama that it retained its “Category 1” rating under the FAA’s International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) program. Since mid-2016, The Wicks Group, a Washington, DC-based aviation consulting and legal firm, has provided intensive technical assistance in order to prepare the country’s civil aviation authority for its IASA assessment.
The Category 1 designation signifies full compliance with international safety standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and followed a comprehensive review by the FAA of Panama’s civil aviation oversight system. Under the IASA program, the FAA assesses whether a foreign country’s civil aviation authority provides sufficient oversight of its air carriers and complies with ICAO Annex 1, 6, and 8 aviation safety standards.
“We appreciate the positive manner in which the AAC worked with the FAA in this matter,” the FAA Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety commented in the official notice. “The AAC has demonstrated a commitment to ensuring the effective safety oversight of the Republic of Panama’s aviation system.”
The FAA maintains two ratings for the status of country’s safety oversight compliance. A Category 1 designation is reserved for countries that demonstrate compliance with ICAO standards for each of the critical elements of civil aviation oversight. A Category 2 rating is assigned when the FAA determines that the country does not comply with ICAO standards. The FAA will issue a Category 2 rating if the FAA has found that, in at least one critical area, the safety measures applied by the country's CAA does not meet international standards.
The renewal of Category 1 status means air carriers in Panama can continue to apply for new services to the U.S. and code-share with U.S. carriers. In contrast, had Panama been downgraded to a Category 2 rating, the United States would not permit expansion or changes in the current services of Panama air carriers to the United States. Additionally, U.S. airlines are generally prohibited from code sharing with foreign air carriers from a Category 2 rated country. New entrant carriers from Category 2-rated countries will not be permitted to commence service to the United States. Therefore, successful satisfaction of the IASA program is critical for the maintenance and development of bilateral aviation relations between the United States and Panama.
During this most recent IASA assessment, The Wicks Group provided extensive technical, legal, and political support to Panama. The Wicks Group undertook a cross-functional work plan designed to address the training of newly hired and existing inspectors to ensure proper qualification; the enhancement of the designee oversight system; comprehensive re-certification activities for AOC holders, flight simulator training devices, and special authorization approvals; the refinement of the surveillance and enforcement program; and the further development of civil aviation regulations and inspector guidance material.
The Wicks Group consultants have assisted seven foreign civil aviation authorities achieve or maintain and existing Category 1 rating in the past decade, including five Category 1 achievements in the last four years. The Wicks Group also provides ongoing Category 1 sustainment services to help ensure that civil aviation authorities maintain ICAO-compliant practices over time.