(Trinidad Guardian) Civil aviation authorities have ramped up monitoring and safety checks on Caribbean Airlines’ fleet of 22 planes in direct response to the loss of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. The disclosure came from Ramesh Lutchmedial, director general of the Civil Aviation Authority who declared that this country’s “ultra-modern, world-class” control centre is capable of ensuring an MH370-type disaster, where a plane goes missing for extended periods, does not occur here. “We are ready for it, we have all the procedures in place,” he assured. Lutchmedial’s position was backed by the T&T Airline Pilots Association as well as Caribbean Airlines. The association, in a statement in response to questions from the T&T Guardian, described the radar system covering T&T airspace as “well-developed” and a “vast improvement” over the older methods, both in safety and efficiency.
“Our US FAA Category 1 status ensures that we meet or exceed international standards. Therefore, we are no more likely to suffer aviation incidents than any other jurisdiction,” said T&TPA. CAL corporate communications manager Clint Williams also assured that the national carrier’s fleet had the technology to ensure that no aircraft went missing. “Our aircraft carry all communication and safety equipment stipulated by the FAA and used industry-wide,” he said. Williams did not provide the aircraft specifications that allowed for tracking its aircraft. According to director Lutchmedial, this country’s combination of radar and satellite phone technology ensured radar coverage of 250 nautical miles and satellite communication beyond that. “If an aircraft, for some unforeseen circumstances, goes down, let’s say it ditches in the sea, they have satellite phones,” he said. Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 was lost in the remote southern Indian Ocean, after it disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board. The last recorded sighting was on March 8. The latest news out of Malaysia suggests that faint signals were detected at the bottom of the Indian Ocean believed to be coming from the aircraft’s black box and a robotic submarine was deployed to investigate.
Since the Malaysia Airlines incident, Lutchmedial said, TTCAA has elevated its monitoring and safety checks on the CAL fleet, which includes 15 Boeing 737-800, five ATR 72-600 and two Boeing 767-300ER. “Absolutely we are monitoring CAL’s fleet. In fact, if the satellite phone is not working they cannot fly to London, they cannot cross the Atlantic. That is mandatory for that operation,” Lutchmedial said. “We are definitely ready if anything like this happens. We always have to be in a state of readiness,” he added. He said it is critical that all of CAL’s satellite phones in its aircraft are functioning properly so the TTCAA can communicate with onboard staff anywhere in the world. The TTCAA, he said, performs continuous surveillance which includes planned inspections and spot checks where “we arrive unannounced and we do checks.”
Lutchmedial said inspections were done weekly, monthly and yearly. “Sometimes we do them twice a week, three times a week. It depends on level of activity, like during the peak period we do them more often,” he said. He also said a plane was supposed to report every half an hour to air control and “there is a protocol that if it does not report within a certain period of time then you deem the aircraft to be missing and you initiate what is called search and rescue operations.” T&T, he said, is a party to the Chicago Convention, which according to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAVO) Web site says signatory governments have “agreed on certain principles and arrangements in order that international civil aviation may be developed in a safe and orderly manner and that international air transport services may be established on the basis of equality of opportunity and operated soundly and economically).”