Mexico’s domestic aviation industry in turmoil

Mexico's domestic aviation industry in turmoil

Passenger planes land at Benito Juárez International Airport in Mexico City, May 12, 2022. Credit: AP Photo/Marco Ugarte, Fille

Mexico’s domestic aviation industry is in turmoil, plagued by safety issues, downgraded and sabotaged by the US Federal Aviation Administration.

Just this week, passengers missed their connection because thieves cut fiber optic cables leading into Mexico City’s airport, forcing immigration authorities to revert to using slow paper forms.

Wednesday’s internet outage comes nearly a month after aviation and transportation authorities were forced to suspend license renewal, health and medical exams until 2023 because of computer systems. of the Ministry of Transport was hacked.

After the collision between two planes at Mexico City airport on May 7, things took a turn for the worse. Authorities revealed that one of the airport’s main terminals is sinking and urgent work is needed to bring it ashore.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s response was a proposal to allow foreign airlines to fly domestic routes. But the safety downgrade — the FAA dropped Mexico from Class 1, which most countries have, to a lower Class 2 in 2021 — prevents Mexican airlines from opening new routes to the United States.

As a result, Mexico’s struggling airlines face competition in their home markets, unable to access new international routes. Experts say it all looks like a disaster for domestic aviation, an area that López Obrador has particularly focused on developing.

Aviation expert Rodrigo Soto-Morales wrote in trade journal a21, referring to the outage and cyber hack: “Not recommended for investment or prospects for a Class 1 recovery in the short or medium term.”

Authorities say the Mexico City airport’s internet cable was cut by thieves who mistook it for fiber optic cables. optical fiber copper that can be sold. They insisted that it happened outside the airport grounds, but in reality it was a cable conduit leading directly into the airport from less than a mile away.

Rogelio Rodriguez Garduño, an aviation expert who teaches aviation law at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, said the events reflect a decades-long deterioration in Mexican aviation regulation. Mexico, unlike most countries, does not have an independent aviation authority.

“If something goes wrong, they investigate themselves and say they don’t take any responsibility,” said Rodriguez Garduño.

It doesn’t bode well for López Obrador’s promise to restore a Category 1 safety rating.

“It seems like this is a process where we are taking a step back,” said Rodriguez Garduño.

Consider the incident on May 7, when a Mexican passenger plane was allowed to land on the runway where another plane was about to take off. They came a few hundred meters apart.

The only person who appeared to have been fired for a near miss was a crew member of another plane, who filmed the incident on her cell phone, accompanied by the words “No no no. no” and a phrase roughly equivalent to “Unbelievable.”

“The problems we are seeing, for example, in air traffic control, where planes are about to collide… failure of the immigration system, problems with training and oversight of maintenance, licensing, it’s something repeated that didn’t start yesterday with this administration,” said Rodriguez Garduño, “although this administration has not taken the necessary steps either.”

All in all, an odd position for a president who has been so focused on aviation that one of the biggest projects in his administration has been to build a new airport in Mexico City to reduce pressure for the old station to be overcrowded.

López Obrador has asked the military to provide civilian domestic flights and has publicly desired a state-run airline in Mexico. But the president doesn’t like spending money on the kind of independent regulator that many consider necessary to ensure safety.

Over the past year, there have been at least 17 incidents of ground-based distance warning system warnings to aircraft approaching Mexico City airport. The International Air Transport Association, which represents 290 airlines, wrote to the Mexican Airspace Navigation Service expressing concern about the near calls.

“Mexico needs an autonomous body with legal status that guarantees independence,” said Rodriguez Garduño.

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