FAA is the world apex aviation regulatory body that has authority to certify or decertified any carrier to flying into the United States.
The status started many years ago when an aircraft that crashed in New York killed so many passengers on board and on ground and when investigations were done, it was gathered that this aircraft from South America had not undergone its routine maintenance and had bad maintenance record.
From that time, the DOT and FAA started Category One where they will look at eight basic elements for any aircraft from any country to come to the US.
Some of the elements they look into have been complied with by Nigeria which is the issue of pry legislation as the country now has the NCAA Act 2006 as the regulatory authority with the function of oversight on the industry.
The identified checklist areas are aviation legislation, regulatory oversight, civil air authority structure and oversight functions, qualified technical personnel, licensing and certification as well as continued surveillance obligations.
The FAA CAT1 status is a globally recognized status for countries that are in the category as it boosts their industry profile.
CAT1 status is a five-year process stage to acquire, but with the stage Nigeria has reached since 2007 when it stated the plan to attain the level, the country is likely to get there by the end of this year.
However, attaining this status is not the utmost, but maintaining it because since the liquidation of the defunct Nigerian Airways in 2004, no Nigerian airline has been given the opportunity to fly directly into the US.
The bad experiences of air mishap the country had between 2005 and 2006 had really rated its aviation safety records low which called for a repositioning of the industry.
With the current situation in the sector and the ego of every stakeholder to guarantee safety, the nation has significantly improved on safety level as we now have an autonomous regulatory body that polices the industry to ensure that safety becomes first in all faces of aviation business.
Already, three Nigerian airlines have been designated to fly directly into the US upon the attainment of CAT1 status and the country can still have more carriers to join these ones if they don’t flub the show as FAA would not hesitated to withdraw the license of the status.
Since the agreement is an open sky, more Nigerian airlines apart from Bellview, Virgin Nigeria and Arik Air can come on board. But the point is standard must be maintained to pave way for others.
Furthermore, attaining CAT1 status will be a good thing for Nigeria, it is going to change the general out look of the nation’s aviation industry, and boost the global profile of Nigerian aviation business.
But something worrisome to the industry watchers is the level of infrastructure decay especially airports. None of the airports in the country is certified by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and this is part of the requirements to attain the status.
Aviation Minister, Mr Babatunde Omotoba last week went to the US to fine tune the process on the CAT 1 status where he said he was able to meet the US Sectary of Transport.
The issue of capital flight, occasioned by the number of foreign airlines coming into Nigeria without reciprocity from Nigeria has dominated discourse in recent times.
Many of the airlines have protested before the minister over the development that has stunted their growth.
His words, “My mission to the US was very successful, we had a meeting with the US Secretary of Transport, which is equivalent of Minister of Transport where we discussed issues that affect both our countries and he is personally very satisfied as well as his team with the level of safety that we have in Nigeria.”
The Director General of NCAA last Thursday told aviation reporters at the agency’s annex in Lagos that the Nigeria had completed all the critical elements of attaining the stage that the aviation industry is now at the last level which its enforcement and compliance.
With the FAA team which has been in the country since last week, the NCAA may achieve the goal of attaining the status this year.
However, the big challenge is how to sustain and retain the status because FAA will not take excuses from any country not worth flying into its sky and will not hesitate to ban carriers from such country.