Registry of Excellence might Result in Service Performance Improvement

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ARTICLE: Int’l Aircraft Registry Proponent Llewellyn Boyer-Cartwright: No Room for Compromise in Air Safety


This insightful article discusses the pre-inspection anxiety that the Bahamas is experiencing prior to its FAA IASI inspection. Councilor Boyer-Cartwright exhorts his government to be prepared for that stringent review.

What is interesting is that this former pilot and current lawyer advocates that the Bahamas become an international registry of excellence, following the maritime model. Actually the regime for licensing ships is called a system of flag of convenience. It is common practice for shipping lines to register their ships with the country with the lowest regulatory standards, such as Liberia or Panama. The ability to choose which country’s standards to follow creates controversy within the shipping community.

Boyer-Cartwright has urged the Bahamas to assume the position of a country that would become the preferred site for airlines to register their aircraft.

As the world’s airlines move to a truly global presence and link their routes with allied carriers, the need to base their airplanes in the country of origin diminishes. When Richard Branson first started Virgin Atlantic, he argued that the “nationality” of the carrier should not matter. He would have seen merits in the Boyer-Cartwright thesis.

The notion of aviation flag of convenience is not entirely meritless. US corporations, in fact, have great freedom to choose the state in which to incorporate. That system has resulted in many companies deciding to file their papers in Delaware. The primary reason they select this jurisdiction is that its courts and the administration of the laws are stable and predictable.

If ICAO and the world’s aviation countries would adopt Mr. Boyer-Cartwright’s registry of excellence, passengers WOULD select the carrier based on the reputation of the safety regulation of the registration country. Unlike shippers, human cargo cannot be replaced by insurance purchase of a substitute bought for the cargo that may have sunk. Under this flexible registry, civil aviation authorities evidencing the highest standards as well as interpreting their rules on a predictable basis would attract the world’s carriers.

It would be interesting to see the reaction of world’s CAA’s employees. The example of Delaware might encourage these civil servants to regard their roles in a different light. Recent history has made it clear that the term “customer” is not to be applied to airlines, but perhaps the notion that “service” is an acceptable approach to regulatory work. Such a change might cause employees to regard deadlines and rational dialogues as appropriate measures of their performance.

That does not mean that the regulator needs to be more lenient or compromise their standards. Standardization is not easily achieved. Field personnel feel as though researching what the senior policy staff’s interpretation is worth the time and effort. If predictability becomes an important agency value, the added time may become more worthwhile.

An atmosphere of mutual respect would enhance safety. If the regulated regards the regulator as a source of useful information, the airline will likely consult the FAA. If the aviation safety inspector understands the operational necessities of the carrier, the result may be an approach which builds on its strengths and seeks to support its deficiencies.

Today, the pattern is more one of avoidance. An atmosphere in which both parties better understand their perspectives can lead to better regulation. Airline personnel can better anticipate the expectations of the FAA and the regulator will have a better handle on its carrier.

Maybe not all bad, Mr. Boyer-Cartwright, but it is not likely to be accepted by the world aviation community anytime soon.

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