|Noi Bai airport. — Photo sanbaynoibai
Director of the Civil Aviation Authority, Lai Xuan Thanh, spoke to the Viet Nam and World Economy newspaper about measures to ensure greater flight safety in Viet Nam.
Some people say that the quick development of Viet Nam's civil aviation, poor infrastructure and weak human resources are the main causes for a series of recent incidents. What do you say?
Our civil aviation has developed rather rapidly. However, compared with other countries, it is not big. Viet Nam's population ranks second in Southeast Asia, but our air transport is behind Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.
We have created a competitive civil-aviation market by allowing Vietnamese airlines to enter into joint venture with foreign airlines while allowing foreign airlines to operate in our country. Worth mentioning is that the Government has created a level playing field for all Vietnamese airlines, be they public or private.
However, frankly speaking, human resource in the airlines sector has failed to meet the sector's development. We still do not have a centre to train our pilots. As a result, 30 per cent of Viet Nam Airlines pilots are hired from overseas,while VietJet Air's pilots are all foreigners.
We also have a big shortage of technical experts. These two factors have seriously affected the comparative advantage of the airlines sector.
To enable all airlines to operate on the same level field, the Government has set standard costs for using a runway for landing and takeoff. This has somehow lowered the benefit ratio to investors. That's why no investors have shown interest in building runways in Viet Nam. So the "bottleneck" in the development of Vietnamese civil aviation lies in the infrastructure - the capacity of the runways and the airspace at all airports.
What will Viet Nam Civil Aviation Authority do to ensure flight safety and high quality service in future?
Flight safety is one of our major concerns. At present only seven out of our 22 airports have installed security fences to block intruders, including people and animals.
In addition, many staff have a low awareness of safety regulations. To address this problem, the Ministry of Transport has introduced a Programme on National Safety Flight. The Ministry of Transport has also issued a Programme on Runway Safety. This will help ensure that people and animals are kept off runways. So in my opinion, we have a good system on safety flights in place. What we have to do now is to make sure everything operates well.
There are no monopolies in air services nowadays. For example, ground services in Noi Bai, Tan Son Nhat and Da Nang airports are operated by more than two companies. Meanwhile technical services, cargo, storage and others are operated by many companies.
However, at some local airports, the service is still poor due to poor infrastructure. One of the reasons for the delay or annulment of flights is the poor service at local air ports. For example, two gangways serve one aircraft and the time gap between the two flights is only 30 minutes.
What will the ministry do to help Viet Nam Civil Aviation overcome its weaknesses?
The first thing we have to do is to improve infrastructure. Each airport must come up with a road map to upgrade infrastructure. For the immediate future, all airports must have a precise landing equipment system and good night lighting system.
As the people's demand for air travel has increased rapidly, we want Long Thanh airport built soon to help solve overloading at Tan Son Nhat airport. The good news is that the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of National Defence have met to discuss the re-arrangement of airspace and North-South flight corridor.
The Ministry of Defence has agreed to give priority to civil aviation in times of peace. In addition, we will try to establish a pilot training centre of our own as well training centres for staff working in air-control towers and technicians. They are the core forces in our civil aviation sector.
To prepare Viet Nam Airlines for entry to the US market, it is imperative to follow all the standard procedures required by the US and the International Civil Aviation Organisation.
There are many things we must do. But among them, safety is the most important for sustainable development. — VNS