FAA’s IASA audit Vietnam CAA’s poses some seminal questions

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FAA reviews Vietnam’s aviation safety standards

Boeing Working to Lift Vietnam’s Air Safety Rating

IASA Category 1 status may attract collateral “help”

Important Safety function

Program might merit changes

The FAA is a safety organization; the public relies on the integrity of its expert judgments. Though it is not an economic regulatory organization, the authorities which it grants have great financial. Without a Part 121 certificate or in the absence of a Production Certificate, the airline and the manufacturer cannot make sales.

Perhaps one of the most valuable regulatory assets it can convey is a Category 1 rating under the International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) program. The Flight Standards organization sends a team to determine whether a country’s oversight by that sovereign’s equivalent to the FAA meets ICAO standards. The Category found to be appropriate impact the country’s carriers’ ability to operate into the U.S., including codesharing with a U.S. air carrier. To reiterate, the FAA’s assignment is to assess the competence of the organization which has the same responsibilities. In diplomatic terms, it is a job verging on being an insult.

There is the current table of IASA categorizations; it is blank where Vietnam should be.























In practical terms, these reviews provide some level of comfort to American passengers considering traveling on these foreign carriers. That measure is at best a surrogate (a good CAA might be overseeing a suspect airline); there are other references to consider.

In economic terms, Category 1 has obvious value, witness Boeing’s intervention. {Query: if Boeing’s help results in a favorable audit whether CAAV will treat the company with any gratitude?}

“Right now, they don’t have Category 1,” Aviation Administration’s rating system. “So we are working with the Vietnamese government and the U.S. government to open that up.”

Civil Aviation Administration of Việt Nam (CAAV) has been subject to previous IASA audits. . In 2013, FAA conducted its first technical review of CAAV, and recommended that as many as 47 issues be fixed or improved. In October 2017, the second review was launched, with the number of recommendations reduced to 16.  CAAV has a full agenda of normal operational challenges in a developing economy. Here is a map of the airports under its authority.










IASA ought to be an inviolate process without internal or external pressure being applied to the experts’ judgment. Here are a string of situations suggesting that IASA needs protection from such influences:

The IDGCA needs to listen carefully to IASA report this time


FAA Inspectors are returning to India for the Third Time- Pending Major Questions

ICAO removes Thailand’s Red Flag two years after a finding of deficiency ISO certifies ICAO’s USOAP

India’s DGCA is being audited again; standards matter

What does EASA audit “German CAA is deficient” indicate?

Times article on poor CAAC continuing airworthiness administration points to further review before the ARJ 21 & the C919 entry

How to get from here to there SAFELY in International Aviation

Having been upgraded by the FAA, now ICAO and EASA will review the DGCAI, why?

India’s Category I reinstatement was conditioned–what do the four “deficiencies” indicate about its aviation safety?

Two recent International Aviation Safety Judgments should cause Rethinking of the current Sovereign to Sovereign Audits

Two Situations—should the international CAA audit criteria be revised based on Lessons?

FAA Category 2 Communications will benefit from Subject Matter Experts; even better, Initiate your own Best Practice, Independent Audit

Multiple Audits of CAAs— triplication needed to assure Aviation Safety?

African Aviation Safety Deficiencies create TDA program to bring CAAs to International Standards


The FAA Audit of CAAV will come to a conclusion. IASA is a well established process. The judgment of these professionals should be rendered on an unfettered basis. The political, commercial and safety significance of these assessments is powerful. It might be appropriate to consider a few ideas:

  1. Is there a need for audits by EASA, FAA and ICAO[1]? Shouldn’t one suffice?
  2. An audit by one sovereign by another carries tones of cultural imperialism.
  3. An audit is a picture of a CAA at a specific point in time. After the visitors leave, the organization may be upgraded or harmed.
  4. Safety as a discipline is a process of continuous improvement. The temporary Audit judgment does not provide an incentive to further reduce risks or enhance safety programs.
  5. Might it be better for EASA, FAA and ICAO to jointly sponsor an independent, highly qualified team to install and monitor CAA level SMS?

This is not even to infer that there is anything nefarious at work in the review of Vietnam, but the situation provides a good opportunity to consider these broader issues.


[1] Note: ICAO has an even more difficult relationship with the audited CAA- the country is a member and frequently part of an informal caucus of similarly situated sovereigns who collectively have a large number of ICAO Assembly votes.


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