What does the FAA IASA downgrade of Malaysia really mean in terms of Aviation Safety?

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FAA Announces Results of International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) for the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia

Confusion about why the downgrade to Category 2

Audit measures CAAM’s meeting of ICAO standards, but what does that mean for Aviation Safety

Multiple Audits, inconsistent scores and no long term plan to advance CAAs’ competences 

…A Category 2 International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) rating means that CAAM – a body equivalent to the FAA for aviation safety matters – is deficient in one or more areas, such as technical expertise, trained personnel, record-keeping, and/or inspection procedures.

As part of the IASA program, the FAA assesses the civil aviation authorities of all countries with air carriers that have applied to fly to the United States, currently conduct operations to the United States, or participate in code-sharing arrangements with U.S. partner airlines, and makes that information available to the public. The assessments determine whether foreign civil aviation authorities are meeting ICAO safety standards, not FAA regulations.

ICAO’s USOAP, which reflects those standards found in 2016 that CAAM was close to the global average in all but one of eight areas which the UN auditors scrutinize.

Malaysia demands explanation from the US over air safety rating downgrade

KUALA LUMPUR: Putrajaya is demanding an explanation from the United States’ Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) over the downgrade of Malaysia’s air safety rating, said PRIME MINISTER MAHATHIS  MOHAMAD on Thursday (Nov 14).

Dr Mahathir said an explanation for the downgrade from Category 1 to Category 2 was important, as it will allow his country to rectify problems and improve weaknesses.

“We want to know (the reasons behind) the downgrade so that Malaysia can find ways to improve the situation. If they say (we) are inefficient and such, (we have managed and turned) KLIA (Kuala Lumpur International Airport) into one of the 20 largest airports in the world,” he said.

“In fact, our company (Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd) was given the responsibility to manage Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen International Airport (in Turkey), which is not small.”

He noted that Malaysia has also received invitations from other countries to manage their airports, adding Malaysian pilots have been accepted to work in countries such as Indonesia and China.

Dr Mahathir added on Wednesday that Malaysians are known as capable people.

 “If our people work overseas, they don’t work as unskilled workers but as professionals such as pilots, engineers and architects, and receive the same salary as professionals from Europe.”

When asked about the cause of the downgrade, Mr. Afzal cited multiple factors.

He noted that CAAM had been transformed into a statutory body in February last year, and faced many hoops and hurdles in order to amend legislation.

CAAM chairman Ahmad Ridzwan Mohd Salleh was also quoted as saying that after being converted to a statutory body, it has been quite difficult to operate due to a shortage of qualified technical personnel.


Many of US aviation authority findings vague, says CAAM

PUTRAJAYA: The Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM) today said many of the findings by the US Federal Aviation Authority were vague after it was downgraded to Category 2.

CAAM urges US aviation authority to reassess Malaysia’s air safety rating downgrade

CAAM chairman Captain Ahmad Ridzwan Mohd Salleh said the classification was due to an FAA review carried out in April, as part of audits on regulators who oversee the operation of flights into the US.

“While CAAM acknowledges that in carrying out its duties as an aviation regulator, some shortcomings exist. We wish to emphasise that the assessment only covered CAAM’s role as an aviation regulator,” he said in a statement.

 “The assessment and subsequent categorisation by the FAA is solus and unilateral in nature, and within their rights as an ICAO member state,” he said.

With CAAM’s request for the review aimed at restoring it to Category 1, Ridzwan said that plans are already well underway to address the findings of the audit.

The audit covered areas of legislation, oversight, delegation of authority as well as adequacy of the number of technical personnel employed by CAAM.

“We continue to contribute to the development and oversight of aviation via its seat on the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Council.

“CAAM remains fully in compliance with all ICAO standards and legislation, having been audited by ICAO as recently as the middle of 2019,” he said.

Picture Captain Ahmad Ridzwan Mohd Salleh meeting with the FAA IASA team. More than likely, his resume is more impressive and more extensive than those who audited CAAM.

The Captain Knows aviation having received extensive training in Malaysia, the UK and at the FAA’s Oklahoma City Training Center. His education included Test Pilot, Aircraft Certification, Operations Safety Inspector and Aircraft Accident. His flight experience began in 1973 with 25 years in the Royal Malaysian Air Force and 2 years in civil aviation. He worked in staff positions at CAAM almost 8 years.

It is quite possible that Salleh was insulted by the FAA critique. Oh yes, the CAAM is part of a sovereign country and could regard the Category 2 downgrade as a form of Institutional Imperialism.

[It should be noted that there is substantial impact on Malaysia:

How US downgrade will hit Malaysian aviation industry

American Airlines removes code from Malaysia Airlines flights after Malaysia’s safety downgrade]

International relations must be strained by   Using the instant example, Captain Salleh may well have been offended by the FAA critiques.

EASA, FAA, IATA, ICAO—all perform assessment of the level of aviation safety around the globe.

⇒The (1) redundancy seems unnecessary

Multiple Audits Of CAAs— Triplication Needed To Assure Aviation Safety?

Global Aviation Safety Standardization Might Be Better Attained If IATA Leads An Effort To A Single International Review

How Many International Audits Are Enough?

Redundant Safety Systems-YES, Duplicative Audits-NO










⇒and (2) inconsistencies inevitable:


Having Been Upgraded By The FAA, Now ICAO And EASA Will Review The DGCAI, Why?

What Does EASA Audit “German CAA Is Deficient” Indicate?

ICAO Removes Thailand’s Red Flag Two Years After A Finding Of Deficiency ISO Certifies ICAO’s USOAP

FAA’s IASA Audit Vietnam CAA’s Poses Some Seminal Questions

FAA Has Problems Thailand’s Below Average Scores, But Not ICAO–WHAT’S UP?

IASA was created in 1992[1] in response to an Avianca crash as it approached JFK International. There were concerns about the FAA’s oversight of foreign countries.  It would appear appropriate and timely for the FAA to reconsider the efficacy of a redundant audit system; query whether the US auditing of 3rd party countries justifies the actual costs and diminishing international stature. Recent statements by ICAO have admitted that the level of pilot competency needs to be examined; is not that a confession that their audits have not detected these deficiencies? Perhaps, a single, unified review of CAAs with continuous support to rectify and substandard aspect would work now.



[1] Lagos, Alfredo; Motevalli, Vahid; Motevalli, Majid; Sakata, Nobuyo (January 2003). “Review and Analysis of the Effects of Major Aviation Accidents in the United States on Safety Policy, Regulation, and Technology”. Journal of the Transportation Research Forum. 45: 15 – via Research Gate.


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