DCA must be stringent
by Joanna Yap, email@example.com. Posted on July 24, 2012, Tuesday
Aviation experts say regulation on private helicopter service operators lax
KUCHING: Private helicopter service operators in the state are not subjected to the same stringent licensing and operating requirements imposed on public helicopter service providers.
Sources in the aviation industry said, among other things, private operators were not required to obtain Air Service Permits (ASPs) and Air Operator Certification (AOCs) which are compulsory for public operators to obtain.
“Public operators are subject to a greater number of audits and must clear a higher number of regulatory requirements,” said a senior aviation manager.
“The DCA (Department of Civil Aviation) has to be stringent to ensure transparency as public safety and security cannot be compromised.
“For private operators, the onus is pretty much on them to ensure that safety requirements are met.”
In the wake of the Eurocopter E120 crash in Sebuyau last Friday which resulted in three fatalities, several people have called The Borneo Post alleging that foreign licensed helicopter pilots and foreign registered helicopters do not come under the authority of the DCA.
They also alleged that the DCA was not taking the lead in the investigation as the helicopter, which is owned by Sebiro Holdings Sdn Bhd, is foreign-registered.
However, a source from DCA said these allegations were untrue.
The source clarified that all foreign licensed helicopter pilots must have their licences validated by the DCA, regardless of whether they are flying Malaysian registered or foreign registered helicopters.
“We will check that the details on their licence match in accordance with the type of aircraft they are operating, and also the verification process of the foreign authority who issued the licence.”
The source pointed out that the department maintained a database of both foreign licensed pilots as well as foreign registered aircraft.
“Private companies have to declare to the DCA if they want to bring in a foreign registered helicopter.
“In fact, every time a foreign registered aircraft flies within Malaysian airspace, they need to get our approval.”
The source said helicopter crashes involving foreign registered pilots and foreign registered helicopters would be investigated by DCA with the assistance of the foreign authorities which issued the said licences for the pilot and under which the helicopter is registered.
It is understood that before a foreign-registered aircraft is allowed to operate in Malaysia, the party bringing it in must prove its airworthiness with the relevant documentation from the foreign-issuing authority.
It is also understood that it is compulsory for both local and foreign registered helicopters to renew their certificates of airworthiness annually.
But due to manpower constraints, the source said DCA was currently only able to carry out random checks on foreign registered helicopters in Sarawak.
“We conduct RAMP inspections where we ask for pilots’ licences and certificates of registration, to make sure that everything is proper and as it should be. We also scrutinise their passenger manifestos.
“The inspections are carried out at random in Sarawak and Sabah when we have staff available to travel. Unfortunately, we cannot afford to do enforcement all the time.”
Meanwhile, Hornbill Skyways director of flight operations Capt Mohd Hassan Suman told The Borneo Post that travelling by helicopter is “very safe” as long as regulations and maintenance procedures are strictly adhered to.
“In Malaysia, public operators like Hornbill Skyways must have both ASPs and AOCs in order to carry out their operations.
“We have to produce the necessary documentation and show the DCA we have fulfilled certain requirements. Otherwise, we will not be allowed to operate.”
In addition to a mandatory annual audit by the DCA, Hornbill Skyways carries out its own flight operations quality assessment quarterly through a Standards and Training cell.
Among other things, the cell monitors pilots’ particulars including medical checkups and audits flight operations to ensure that the company is in line with legislative and other mandatory requirements.