Air Operator Certificate takes precedence over IOSA Certification in Uganda

Air Uganda, one of the Ugandan-registered operators whose Air Operator Certificate (AOC) was withdrawn, has taken to the media, faulting the actions of Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

Air Operator Certificate takes precedence over IOSA Certification in Uganda

Air Uganda, one of the Ugandan-registered operators whose Air Operator Certificate (AOC) was withdrawn, has taken to the media, faulting the actions of Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). Whereas authenticity of newspaper articles is not guaranteed, it is reported in the East African Newspaper of June 28-July 4 2014 that the CEO of Air Uganda in an interview, described CAA’s action as unnecessary. In the same interview, the CEO states that Air Uganda passed the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Operational Safety Audit Programme (IOSA), and received a certificate that is valid until September 30 2015. He further states that after certification, Air Uganda became an IATA member effective May 22 (year not stated).

The CEO is quoted;“They are just hiding behind the airline. The problem can only be with CAA’s own failures and how Uganda fares in terms of safety regulation”

Unfortunately, almost three weeks after the event, CAA has still not issued a public statement. The only available information is from the media and the statement issued by Air Uganda. The public therefore, is still in the dark and does not really know the circumstances under which the AOC was withdrawn.

Be that as it may, Air Uganda seems to rely on IOSA certification as justification for continuity of its AOC, which is untenable for the reasons listed below.

First of all, an AOC is a creature of statute, a legal requirement, and is issued by the regulator before an airline is allowed to commence operations. It is provided for under Section 42 of the Civil Aviation Authority Act (CAP 354 Laws of Uganda) and the Civil Aviation (Air Operator Certification and Administration) Regulations (Statutory Instrument 26 of 2012). The Airline MUST comply with certain legal requirements before being allowed to operate. The AOC remains valid for a period of one year unless the same is amended, varied, suspended or revoked by CAA.

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On the other hand, IOSA audits and certification ARE NOT a legal requirement and airlines can operate without them. The certificates are issued by IATA after an audit of the airline. Air Uganda commenced operations in 2007 yet the said IOSA audit was conducted in 2013. (During this period, Air Uganda had valid AOCs issued annually without having IOSA certification) A certificate was subsequently issued and is valid for two years. IOSA certification is mandatory for all IATA members (which membership Air Uganda joined in 2014). However, IATA is merely a trade association. Membership is optional although it may come with benefits, for instance, helping airlines identify code-share partners.

Secondly, only airlines that have already been licensed and commenced operations are eligible for IOSA audits and subsequent certification.

Operator is not defined in the Uganda Certification regulations. The closest to this is the definition of Air Operator Certificate.

“A certificate authorizing an operator to carry out specified commercial air transport operations”

The IOSA Programme Manual defines operator as “An airline or other organization that engages in all or some of the airline operational disciplines under the scope of IOSA and has met the requirements for IOSA registration”

This means the airline must have satisfied all licensing and operational requirements locally and must be in operation, before it qualifies for an IOSA audit and subsequent certification. IOSA audits are all about operational fitness and this is limited to operational airlines.

By implication, the airline must have been certified by the C.A.A. to conduct operations. The AOC takes precedence over IOSA certification. The AOC comes first then IOSA not the other way round. IATA has no mandate to determine whether or not an AOC issued to a Ugandan Airline can remain in force. That power lies with CAA, and until the latter comes out publicly, it is safe to assume that the airlines in issue violated or failed to comply with some of the conditions in their AOCs to justify the regulator’s action

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