Lebanon’s Failure To Appoint CAA Stymies ICAO

 - May 19, 2014, 4:02 PM
Ground crew tow a Middle East Airlines A320-200 along the tarmac at Beirut’s Rafic Hariri International Airport. (Photo: Middle East Airlines)

Lebanon’s inability to appoint a fully fledged civil aviation authority has led to failures to pass ICAO audits but has not raised safety concerns about airlines operating within the country, a senior Lebanese civil aviation official told AIN recently in Dubai.

Lack of a CAA prompted ICAO to include Lebanon on a 2012 list of at least 13 countries about which it raised “state safety concerns.”

“We were [among] the first to announce establishment of a civil aviation authority as independent regulator in 2002. The problem is that since [then], the government has not executed the law. Without that, we cannot move forward,” said Dr. Hamdi Chaouk, who recently resigned as civil aviation director general of Lebanon.

The titular head of Lebanon’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation, he resigned to protest government inaction, but hoped recent elections would prompt a fresh approach.

He also accused Ghazi Aridi, the current transport minister responsible for sidestepping the law, of overlooking Open Skies agreements that would have liberalized Lebanese air transport, as elsewhere in the Middle East.

He emphasized that Lebanon has a strong technical oversight record. “When it comes to inspecting aircraft or allowing [them] to land or take off at Beirut, it is safe. The record shows good numbers,” he said.

“When it comes to [ICAO] auditing, this is where we [are lacking]. In enhancing safety using core ICAO audit elements, you start from organization, and on through numbers of inspectors, the law that enforces it, documentation and so on. The lack of that is due to the regulator’s non-existence.”

Dr. Chaouk noted that today, a Lebanese Civil Aviation Authority does not exist, but rather a directorate. “We are not an authority yet. This is what we want to be,” he said. “ICAO does not audit…on the tarmac. It audits regulators. But we don’t have a true regulator. This is a safety concern for ICAO, but not relating to an airline that wants to operate out of Beirut. We need to differentiate, because people may get confused.”

Dr. Chaouk expressed hope that presidential elections, as yet undecided, will lead to change. “I hope that government will act,” he said. “Since they have appointed officials to other institutions in the country, we think that they might [make changes].”

He said he would likely not head any newly created authority. “I waited too long. I am refusing to go back. I hope they appoint a civil aviation authority which then is managed by an independent board,” he concluded.