Vietnam Desperate for Flight Inspectors Amid Rapid Growth

 - October 4, 2019, 9:31 AM
Vietnam Airlines took delivery of its first Airbus A320neo in November 2018. (Photo: Airbus)

The rapid development of Vietnam’s airline industry has prompted the country’s regulator to boost the number of flight inspectors as it looks to maintain a Category 1 safety rating from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). In response, newcomer Bamboo Airways and three other proposed startups—Vinpearl Air, Vietravel Airlines, and Kite Air—offered a combined eight flight inspectors to strengthen safety provisions within the sector.

According to the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV), the regulator has deployed 49 flight safety officers supervising a total of 256 aircraft split among five local airlines; only four officers work for the authority full-time. The shortage of personnel and a limited government budget has forced the CAAV to outsource flight inspectors from Vietnamese carriers—a practice it has vowed to terminate by 2025. To maintain its Category 1 safety rating, the FAA requires the CAAV to employ a sufficient number of flight inspectors and end outsourcing.

Last month, state-owned Vietnam Airlines became the first Vietnamese carrier to secure a foreign air carrier permit from the U.S. Department of Transportation, effectively allowing the airline to launch flights between Vietnam’s two main cities—Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi—to major U.S. destinations, namely Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Seattle, and Dallas-Fort Worth. Vietnam Airlines can also choose to offer transit flights to the U.S. via Taipei, Taiwan, and Osaka, and Nagoya and continue flights from the U.S. to three Canadian destinations—Vancouver, Montreal, and Toronto. This month, the carrier expects to begin codeshare flights with Delta Air Lines.

Vietnam Airlines’s push to enter the U.S. market coincides with an organizational restructure that will see the airline complete its 20-strong Airbus A321neo fleet and take delivery of two additional Boeing 787-10s by year-end. The carrier also plans to secure an investment for 50 narrowbody aircraft for the 2021-2025 period.

Newcomer Bamboo Airways has also signaled its intent to launch direct flights to the U.S. as well as to destinations in Europe. The airline now operates a mix of scheduled and charter flights to 26 domestic and Asia destinations with an all-Airbus fleet of 10 aircraft. Bamboo will take delivery of one of 20 Boeing 787-9s this month and aims to expand its fleet to 30 aircraft by the first quarter of 2020 and 100 by 2024. Plans call for a mixed fleet of 787-9 and narrowbody Airbus A321s.