Chairman of Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM) Captain Ahmad Ridzwan Mohd Salleh (right) with the Members of the Authority Prof Datuk Razali Mahfar (middle) and Afzal Abdul Rahim regrets to announce that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of the United States has informed CAAM that it is being listed as a Category 2 Aviation Regulator during the press conference today. (BERNAMA)

PUTRAJAYA: The Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM) is confident of regaining its Category 1 Aviation Regulator status within 24 months from the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

CAAM chairman Captain Ahmad Ridzwan Mohd Salleh said the downgrade was a result of the FAA’s review of CAAM held in April 2019.

"The assessment covers eight elements which constitute an aviation safety oversight system.

"These are primary aviation legislation; specific operating regulations; state civil aviation system and safety oversight functions; technical personnel qualification and training; technical guidance, tools and the provisions of safety-critical information; licensing, certification, authorisations and approval obligations; surveillance obligations and resolution of safety concerns," he said.

Ridzwan was speaking at a press conference held this evening.

Also present were CAAM members of authority Prof Datuk Razali Mahfar and Afzal Abdul Rahim.

Ridzwan said at the time of the audit, FAA listed its findings and CAAM took immediate and considerable steps to rectify the findings, observed by FAA.

"By July 2019, the majority of the findings were closed. However, in our view, a substantial number of findings were either ambiguous or undetermined."

Afzal, meanwhile, said CAAM as a whole complied to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) standards and during the FAA's audit, had scored 92.7 per cent out of about 300 questions asked.

"By our calculations, 7.3 per cent or 33 areas are still outstanding.

"There is ambiguity over certain issues. But the key thing is there is feedback and we will be making changes.

“At the end of the day, the FAA pointed out shortcomings on our part. There are some that are ambiguous," he said.

He noted that once CAAM closes these 33 areas, it has no doubt that it would regain its Category 1 status - which it had secured in 2003 - between 12 and 24 months.

He said CAAM believed there were only found 22 outstanding issues, which left 11 issues which it deemed ambiguous.

To a question, Afzal said this was the first time that CAAM had been downgraded to Category 2.

In order to regain its Category 1 status, he said the FAA must still be convinced to conduct a reassessment exercise on the regulatory body.

Asked if CAAM would expect audits to be done by other countries after FAA's audit, Afzal replied in the affirmative.

On improvements and changes expected to take place within CAAM in the next two to three years, Afzal said they would range from human resources to finance.

"We have also initiated CAAM’s strategic transformation initiative."

On why CAAM did not inform Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad of its downgraded status, he said it related the matter to the Transport Ministry.

CAAM also reiterated and emphasised that the FAA's assessment only covered CAAM's role as an aviation regulator.

"This categorisation, however, was not an assessment of airlines, airports or air traffic services that fall under the purview of CAAM.

"However, due to being listed as a Category 2 Regulator, airlines licensed by CAAM will not be able to add new routes to and from the United States," he said.

Asked if the latest development would affect the code-sharing arrangements licensed by CAAM, Afzal said CAAM was still waiting for feedback on it.