Friday, September 22, 2017

Master plan needed for civil aviation industry, says expert

Passengers check in at Yangon International Airport. Ko Taik/ The Myanmar TimesPassengers check in at Yangon International Airport. Ko Taik/ The Myanmar Times

Myanmar could establish itself as a regional air traffic hub to rival Bangkok but only if the nation’s civil aviation authorities draft a master plan to guide its development, a foreign aviation expert based in Yangon says.

Frenchman Dominique Savariau, a helicopter pilot and former air operations manager of Amoco Corporation’s oil exploration activities in Myanmar, has lived in the country for more than 20 years and says it is perfectly placed, geographically and historically, to become an international air hub.

However, Myanmar’s aviation development since 1994 appears erratic and unguided by a plan, he says.

To realise its potential the government must first have a clear understanding of the international aviation industry and what it wants the nation’s industry to look like and then get involved in establishing the rules, regulations and standards that will shape that future, he says.

Mr Savariau says one solution is to commission an international company to undertake a Civil Aviation Master Plan, or CAMP.

CAMPs cover every aspect of aviation, including airport infrastructure, equipment, personnel, qualifications, training, safety, standards, passenger traffic, commercial relations with neighbouring countries and operations. Mr Savariau said CAMPs are guides that clearly outline the state of a country’s civil aviation industry and propose several possible paths forward based on aviation development elsewhere.

“It is a big job indeed and only a handful of companies in the world can do it correctly,” he said in a recent interview at Centrepoint Towers in Yangon.

“It takes time as well – about one year – but it is absolutely necessary to make informed decisions, to move forward step-by-step and bring all actors towards a designated goal.

“It has a cost, of course, but it should be considered as an investment,” he says.

Mr Savariau says Myanmar needs to get its aviation industry in order.

“Aviation is like the paint you put on your house – it’s the first thing to be seen. If you present an image expressing confidence, professionalism, punctuality and integrity it makes all the difference,” he says.

Mr Savariau says a CAMP should be commissioned as soon as possible because the industry is desperately in need of reform. He said the five domestic airlines are losing money and the number of foreign operators aiming for a slice of the existing market is set to increase rapidly.

He lists a number of problems: the national carrier does not have government support, most of the aircraft operating in Myanmar are leased and not owned outright, insurance premiums are too high and while operators follow the standards set by manufacturers, other related sectors are ungoverned.

“Aviation involves many sectors, many actors. Standards for those sectors must be defined by the government, controlled by the Department of Civil Aviation and must be audited regularly. And the information and results published in a transparent manner,” he said.

“ASEAN, just like Europe many years ago, is organising itself and Myanmar will be carried with the movement. If it’s not ready, the market will be swallowed by others. With an aviation history as proud as Myanmar’s that would be a tremendous shame,” he said.

However, Mr Savariau is confident that the government and other actors will be able to meet the challenge of developing its civil aviation industry.

“I like Myanmar and I think its treasure is not only underground but is its population. I have no doubt that Myanmar will regain its past aviation position but I must say I am worried how it will happen and if it can be achieved in time,” he said.

He added that the future for Asia’s aviation industry is bright – and very lucrative. The Singapore Air Show in February this year took advance orders for aircraft totalling more than US$30 billion, he said. By 2015, 40pc of the world’s air traffic will cross the region, he added.

“Myanmar cannot live alone and isolated – it must find its place in the continuously moving puzzle of Asia’s aviation industry. And it should have the prominent position that it deserves. But for that to happen, some decisions must be taken urgently.

“In 2015, which is tomorrow, there will be ‘open skies in Asia’. What does it mean? It means that any airline from ASEAN will be allowed to come to any airport in Myanmar and carry or drop passengers and cargo elsewhere, either inside or outside the country.

“Myanmar can do the same in the other countries in ASEAN but only if its aviation industry is organised, standardised, competitive and financially sound,” he said.

“But if Myanmar’s aviation industry is not ready then unfortunately it will be swallowed without hesitation because it is the market that dictates the economy and its development.

“It’s now or never.”

For more information about this story Mr Savariau can be contacted at dsavariau@gmail.com.