KUALA LUMPUR: The Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM) could save between RM150 million and RM200 million a year if a third-party operator is appointed to maintain and manage its navigational aids.
A source formerly attached to the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) said the government via the Ministry of Transport (MoT) could use the savings to pay higher staff remuneration and hire more technical expertise.
He added that CAAM requires about RM500 million in maintenance expenditure annually for the maintenance of navigational aids, which includes radar, doppler very high frequency omnidirectional radio range (DVOR), instrument landing system, terminal radar, primary and secondary radars.
The annual budget would have included surveillance equipment, satellite-based position system and radar, to assist navigators in determining their position or altitude to warn pilots the dangers or obstructions to navigation.
“CAAM will no longer have to bear the maintenance cost for its navigational aids if all assets can be operated or transferred to a third-party operator,” the source told the New Straits Times on condition of anonymity.
He said CAAM would allocate about RM300 million for the maintenance cost per year, mainly for the navigational aids, including surveillance equipment, satellite-based position system and radar, to assist navigators in determining their position or altitude or to warn them of dangers or obstructions to navigation.
“Each of the radar in the country requires about RM15 million to maintain. If the navigational aids are operated by a third party, they should be able to maintain and replace the ageing equipment,” he said.
MoT had previously said CAAM operated on a budget of RM350 million annually, partly from the government and charges collected by the authority.
However, a source said the budget was not inclusive of the maintenance cost for CAAM navigational aids.
“If CAAM increase the air navigation facility charges (ANFC) or overflight charges and appoint a third-party to maintain its navigational aids – CAAM will solve its financial issue,” he said.
Transport Minister Loke Siew Fook said the ministry would help CAAM to rectify the issues raised by the United States’ Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), following the downgrade from Category 1 to Category 2.
This was due to CAAM’s alleged failure to meet the safety standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
The decision was made after FAA conducted a reassessment of CAAM under the International Aviation Safety Assessment programme in April last year, followed by discussion of the audit results to the authority in July.
In Category 2, Malaysia joins Bangladesh, Ghana, Costa Rica, Thailand and Curacao.
CAAM has also requested FAA to conduct a reassessment within the next 12 months to restore its Category 1 status.
MoT had said it would revise rate for the overflight charges in December 2019 to improve CAAM’s remuneration packages.
He said CAAM’s remuneration packages were not attractive enough to recruit and retain qualified technical personnel, such as technical crews and pilots.
It is learnt that the charges would be applicable for domestic and foreign airlines flying through Malaysia’s airspace.
Loke said the government would give notice to airlines on the charges once details were finalised.
“There are thousands of flights daily in our airspace. Any country will impose the airspace charges,” he said, adding that this in turn would potentially increase CAAM’s revenue and help it to rectify the issues raised by FAA.
He said the revised charges were also aimed at making CAAM financially independent.
A source said CAAM was short of technical professionals, adding that the authority needed more air traffic controllers, pilots (to check pilots of airlines and its aircraft) and engineers (to issue airworthiness certificate).
“The hiring should not be limited to former air force staff. It must be opened to all aviation experts, especially those from Malaysia Airlines (ex-pilots) and new pilots under CAAM training course.
“CAAM should also upgrade the remuneration and must have backups for pilots and engineers by bonding them,” he said, adding that this applies to those undergoing training.
He said CAAM’s current total workforce constituted 1,200 air traffic controllers, 20 to 30 pilots and 20 to 30 engineers.
“CAAM needs additional 500 air traffic controllers by 2022, besides 20 to 30 more pilots and engineers,” he said.
The source said CAAM’s overflight charges are about five sen to two sen per nautical mile -- the cheapest in Asia.
“CAAM’s collects between RM20 million and RM50 million annually for its overflight charges but this is insufficient due to our rate being the cheapest in the region,’ he said.
He said the revision overflight charges would be vital for CAAM to increase its revenue while improving its operation.
Market expert said the current CAAM board micromanages the authority as the MoT did not fully oversee its overall operations.