Proposed Reforms Put FAA Airspace Evaluation on Pause

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On Monday, Jan. 30, Mexico’s Secretary of Infrastructure, Communications and Transportation (SICT) Jorge Nuño Lara announced that the U.S. Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) – which controversially downgraded the ranking of Mexican airspace from Category 1 to Category 2 in May 2021 – will not be able to reevaluate its ranking of Mexico’s airspace until Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s (AMLO) initiative to reform the country’s Civil Aviation Law and the Airport Law has been resolved.

Mexico’s deranked airspace has caused numerous problems for the country’s aeronautics sector across the past year and a half, as it’s prevented Mexican airlines from extending their operations and fleets inside the United States while simultaneously hurting the nation’s all-important tourism industry.

While regaining its Category 1 ranking has purportedly been at the top of Mexico’s priority list since the U.S. agency’s mid-2021 decision, the country’s lack of urgency to fix the problems pointed out by FAA has drawn the revaluation out into a multi-year process. 

Now, as López Obrador attempts to reform Mexico’s Civil Aviation Law and the Airport Law to allow cabotage, Nuño Lara has advised that the FAA – which was scheduled to reevaluate Mexico’s aerospace ranking by conducting an ​​International Aviation Safety Audit (IASA) in the first weeks of February – will no longer reconsider Mexico’s airspace category until the reform’s status is set in stone.

“The FAA will not be able to solve 25 percent of the findings detected (10 of 39), until the initiative for the Civil Aviation Law and the Airports Law that the Executive sent to Congress on January 15 is approved in the terms proposals,” Nuño Lara revealed at a plenary session of the Chamber of Deputies on Jan. 30.

“However, if the findings are not 100 percent resolved, we will not recover Category 1 in aviation. This is where the approval of the initiatives of the two aforementioned laws is strategic and crucial to recover Category 1,” added Nuño Lara.

According to Nuño Lara, the proposed reforms to the Civil Aviation Law will strengthen Mexico’s Federal Civil Aviation Agency (AFAC) to meet some of the standards set by the FAA to regain its ranking, including verification and operational safety and regulatory investigations of accidents, among others. Meanwhile, the Airports Law reform will purportedly update the technical characteristics of Mexico’s airports based on international standards, an aspect that will be checked underneath the FAA audit.

“The approval of these initiatives under the proposed terms guarantees not only that 25 percent of the findings pending to be resolved are resolved, but also that they establish guidelines of public interest for the development of the aviation sector,” Nuño Lara went on to say.

Nuño Lara also spoke on the controversial cabotage provisions of AMLO’s proposed reforms, claiming they will only be utilized under specific and controlled conditions.

“The implementation of the measure does not seek to harm Mexican airlines or cause them to lose market on routes in which foreign airlines compete,” concluded Nuño Lara.

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