The Latin American and Caribbean Air Transport Association’s (ALTA’s) 3rd Pan American Aviation Safety Summit presented the region’s aviation leaders with an opportunity to congratulate each other for progress in improving the region’s safety record and, more importantly, to warn each other that complacency will result in an increase in accidents if for no other reason than a strong growth rate.
Multiple speakers at the summit, held in mid-June in Bogotá, Colombia, talked about the importance of cooperation among the many aviation stakeholders, about open communication, and about how both will be even more essential as the region’s aviation market continues to grow. Fabio Villegas, the chief executive officer of AviancaTaca, said that safety cannot be a competitive differentiator between airlines, but rather that it must be a common objective. He went on to say that aviation is no longer a “national industry,” and he called for harmonized regulations across the region.
Miguel Peñaloza, Colombia’s minister of transportation and communications, described aviation as “an industry of trust,” and warned that people often fill gaps in information with speculation. Aviation needs to be open and transparent, he said.
Still, comments like this are not unusual at industry events. I’ve heard similar remarks made at conferences, summits and seminars in North America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Cooperation and improved communication, while always desirable, are not new ideas.
What sets apart the Latin American and Caribbean region, however, is that it is backing up its words with action in the form of RASG-PA, the Regional Aviation Safety Group–Pan America. RASG-PA was established in late 2008 “to be the focal point to ensure harmonization and coordination of safety efforts aimed at reducing aviation risks in the North American, Central American, Caribbean and South American regions, and to promote the implementation of resulting safety initiatives by all stakeholders,” according to the group’s website.
The ALTA summit was my first real exposure to RASG-PA and I came away impressed with the support the group has been able to generate from industry and government in a relatively short time. I left Bogotá with the sense that major stakeholders — airlines, airports, manufacturers, air traffic control organizations and national civil aviation authorities — are aligned and moving forward together.
I don’t mean that everyone agrees on all the issues; that rarely is the case. And it is obvious that the level of participation varies from country to country. But there does seem to be agreement that RASG-PA is the proper vehicle by which to advance the cause of safety.
The progress being made by RASG-PA certainly benefits the traveling public in the Americas, but it may also have wider ramifications.
According to Loretta Martin, who serves as RASG-PA’s secretary and the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO’s) regional director for the North America, Central America and Caribbean regional office, RASG-PA has proven so successful that the ICAO Council has approved it as a model for its other five regions.
That’s called leading by example. It is to be lauded.