FAA returns Israel to Category 1 safety upgrade
After falling to Category 2 status in 2008, government took aggressive action to ensure safety oversight standards.
El Al airplanes sit on the runway Photo: Ronen Zvulun / Reuters
Israel has returned to the highest ranking in aviation safety, according to the
standards of the United States Federal Aviation Authority, Transportation
Minister Israel Katz announced on Thursday.
The FAA informed Israel’s
Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Director Giora Romm of the organization’s
decision to cancel Israel’s downgrade to Category 2 for flight safety, and
return it to Category 1.
Israeli airlines flying to the US will therefore
no longer be subject to the limitations they have faced for the past
three-and-a-half year. They will now be able to fly to any destination in the US
and continue from there to locations all over the world.
In addition to
this benefit, both Israeli and American airlines will also now be able to sign
more code-share ticketing agreements, the ministry said.
The decision to
return Israel to Category 1 followed an examination of its CAA by senior staff
members of the FAA, which determined that the CAA met all international safety
requirements. The FAA conducts the International Aviation Safety Assessment
Program (IASA), which evaluates the civil aviation authority of each country
that has carriers with aircraft entering the US.
Those countries whose
CAA meet Category 1 standards “may initiate or continue service to the United
States in a normal manner and take part in reciprocal codeshare arrangements
with US carriers.”
Those in Category 2 are unable to initiate any new
service and restricted to their current levels of service to the US, while their
reformative actions are underway. While a country’s CAA is in Category 2, the
FAA does not honor reciprocal codeshare agreements between airlines from that
state and from the US, and carriers from the country flying into the US are
subject to additional inspection upon arrival.
Reasons that a country may
fall into Category 2 and not comply with International Civil Aviation
Organization (ICAO) standards are that the country lacks the regulations
necessary to support oversight of carriers in accordance with minimum
international standards, and that the country’s CAA lacks technical expertise,
or has not adequately trained its personnel. Other reasons include inadequate
inspector guidance in the CAA to ensure enforcement of minimum international
standards, and insufficient records of certification, or inadequate surveillance
of air carrier operations – according to the FAA.
Possessing one or more
of these elements will cause a country to receive Category 2 rating, the FAA
information said. Israel’s CAA was first bumped to Category 2 on December 19,
2008, due to an assessment made in July of that year that was “not related to
security issues,” according to an FAA press release from the time.
receiving the Category 2 rating, Israel began working with the FAA to take
aggressive action against the areas of concern and ensure that its safety
oversight system was fully compliant with ICAO standards, the release said. The
FAA stressed at the time that Israel had maintained a Category 1 rating since
November 1995, and that its Category 2 move did not necessarily mean that travel
on Israeli air carriers had become unsafe.
Rather, a Category 2 rating
can be bestowed on a country due to lack of proper regulations, or standards in
technical, training, inspection or recordkeeping areas, the FAA said.
CAA had failed in all basic elements required by the FAA to qualify for safe
civil aviation at the time, the ministry said. After conducting a retest the
following year, the FAA again found similar deficiencies.
2 countries listed in January 2012 included Bangladesh, Barbados, Belize, Cote
D’Ivoire, Curacao, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gambia, Haiti, Honduras,
Indonesia, Kiribati, Montenegro, Nauru, Nicaragua, Paraguay, the Philippines,
Serbia, Swaziland, the Ukraine, Uruguay and Zimbabwe. All other Middle Eastern
countries permitted to fly into the US – Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar,
Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates – were in Category 1.
office, Katz has made it one of his priorities to return Israel to the highest
safety aviation ranking, according to the Transportation
Following the downgrade, Israeli CAA staff worked with a
special American team to correct the deficiencies – such as rewriting
procedures, updating hundreds of regulations, rewriting the Flight Law and newly
documenting licenses, the ministry explained.
Teams from the FAA visited
Israel every two months to guide CAA supervisors and evaluate the implementation
In April 2011, a new Flight Law came into force, replacing the
antiquated Flight Law of 1927, one of the main conditions that would lead to
Israel’s return to Category 1, the ministry said.
While much has been
accomplished, the CAA is to continue to perform several tasks as part of its
Category 1 acceptance process, said Romm, the CAA director. These include
continuing to implement extensive regulations, renewing the licenses for various
airlines and handling sportive and unmanned aviation, Romm
“Israel’s return to the high safety ranking will enable for the
first time Israeli airlines to realize the new ‘Open Skies’ agreement that was
signed two years ago between Israel and the US,” the ministry said.