The European Union’s so-called safety blacklist, which bans carriers from specified countries deemed to have inadequate safety regulation standards, has been condemned as “misguided” by Tony Tyler, director general and CEO of the International Air Transport Association (IATA). During last month’s Central Asian summit on aviation safety, Tyler highlighted the bans on summit host Kazakhstan and its neighbor Kyrgyzstan. Carriers from these countries are banned from operating in EU airspace, with the partial exception of Kazakhstan’s Air Astana, which can operate only some of its fleet.
“There is no transparency, no clarity on why some carriers are put on the list and no clear indication on what is required to get off the list,” Tyler complained. “And some aspects of how the list is administered are absolutely absurd. For example, Air Astana’s exemption to fly to Europe is restricted to aircraft that it had when Kazakhstan was put on the European banned list. So it cannot fly its newest aircraft to Europe. How could that possibly improve safety?” Air Astana has ordered four Boeing 767-300ERs that Air Astana president Peter Foster says cannot be deployed on EU routes. “This is purely a punitive measure designed to pressure Kazakhstan to implement reforms,” he said.
Concern on the part of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) over the lack of investment and reform in the Kazakhstan Civil Aviation Committee’s oversight rules after the end of the Soviet era resulted in the EU’s 2009 blacklisting of 37 Kazakhstani operators. At the summit Aurelia Bouchez, head of the EU delegation to Kazakhstan, emphasized that the non-compliance findings identified by ICAO need to be resolved. “The important task is to face challenges on the crucial issue of aviation safety. It is a prerequisite to move forward,” she said.
Some steps to resolve the situation are being taken. For example, CAC chairman Beken Seidakhmetov said that the agency is removing a number of old Antonov An-24s and Yakovlev Yak-40s from the Kazakhstan registry. Other ICAO concerns include a lack of qualified staff and the need for modernization of airport infrastructure, all of which Seidakhmetov insists are being addressed through an aviation law passed in July.