In the early 1990s various Reports were made on the slow and uncoordinated implementation of the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s Standards and Recommended Practices (ICAO SARPs) by a large number of Contracting States, especially in the developing World. The 32nd ICAO Council Assembly of 1995 approved the ICAO Safety Oversight Voluntary Assessment Programme to help States understand their status of compliance with ICAO SARPs in order to develop corrective actions. The East African States (Uganda as the first one) were among those that volunteered to undergo that programme.
The Conference of Directors General of Civil Aviation on a Global Strategy for Safety Oversight held 10th – 12th November 1997 in Montreal, Canada emphasized the need for coordinating and harmonizing the principles and procedures for assessing safety oversight at a global level, recognizing at the same time the advantages of adopting a regional focus. In that context, the Conference recommended that ICAO promotes the establishment of regional mechanisms with a view to achieving the long-term goals of safety oversight capability at a global level.
The East African Community (EAC) Partner States of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda with the support of the US Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) took on this initiative and embarked on the roadmap for the establishment of a Regional Safety Oversight Organization on the ICAO proposed framework stipulated in ICAO Document 9734 Part B – The Establishment and Management of a Safety Oversight System, however, with the element of security added on. The establishment of this body commenced with a benchmarking mission to Central America that had started a similar arrangement, headquartered in Costa Rica. In parallel, the East African States were engaged in an elaborate harmonisation process of their Aviation Safety and Security Regulations, in line with the ICAO recommended Practices and Standards, a further justification of the establishment of a regional body to oversee the compliance with the harmonized regulations. On 18th April 2007, following fruitful deliberations by civil aviation and legal experts of the EAC, the EAC Council of Ministers approved the establishment of the EAC Civil Aviation Safety and Security Agency (CASSOA) as an autonomous self-accounting institution of the Community and appointed its first Executive Director – Mr. Mtesigwa Maugo (Tanzania) , the Technical Coordinator – Mr. Robert Mwesigwa Nviiri (Uganda), and the Office Management Assistant – Mrs. Lillian Mwenda (Kenya), and the first Board complement comprising the then three Heads of Civil Aviation Authorities of the Partner States. CASSOA commenced operations on 1st June 2007 in Arusha, Tanzania, at the seat of the East African Community Secretariat. Today CASSOA boasts of 12 staff members and an expanded Board of 10 members comprising the 5 Heads of Civil Aviation Authorities and five experts in aviation matters nominated, one each, from the Partner States.
Eight years down the line, CASSOA has been able to make eight commendable achievements despite constraints in both human and financial resources at its disposal, namely:
- Coordination of the promulgation of the harmonized Civil Aviation Safety and Security Regulations in the Partner States;
- Development of the Technical Guidance Materials for assisting both the regulators and service providers to abide by the Regulations;
- Assisting Partner States in preparing for ICAO Safety and Security audits and thereafter developing harmonized Corrective Action Plans to the findings;
- Capacity building for the Partner States’ safety and security inspectors;
- Establishment of the regional Centre for Aviation Medicine, the first of its kind in the World;
- Establishment of a harmonized computerized EAC Aviation Examination System for purposes of personnel licensing;
- Development of a harmonized EAC Inspector Training System for Airworthiness and Flight Operations Inspectors (currently the one for Air Navigation Services (ANS) Inspectors is under development); and
- The development of a Safety Oversight Facilitated and Integrated Application software – SOFIA, that assists Inspectors to carry out their safety oversight obligations effectively.
Some of the key ongoing programmes are:
- Assistance to EAC Partner States in capacity building in the area of flight operations courtesy of ICAO through their SAFE fund over a period of two years;
- Development of an Inspector Training System for ANS;
- Development of a harmonized EAC aviation examination syllabus;
- Development of a computer based training programme for aviation security; and
- Preparatory programme for a roadmap to successful ICAO aviation security audits for the Partner States of Kenya and Tanzania
As we observe the 8th Anniversary of CASSOA, I wish to thank the Partner States through the Council of Ministers, for their support and financial contributions to the development of CASSOA, the members of the Board of CASSOA right from inception to present date, for the policy guidance to the Agency, the current and previous Secretaries General of the Community for their tacit support to the CASSOA activities, and the staff of CASSOA who continue to discharge their responsibilities diligently.
I also thank our Development Partners – European Union EASA, Federal Aviation Administration of USA, ICAO, AviAssist of the Netherlands, Her Majesty’s Government of the UK thru the British High Commission in Nairobi, just to name but a few for their technical and financial contributions to the activities of CASSOA. I call upon our Development Partners to continue supporting CASSOA.
Last but not least, I thank my predecessors Executive Directors, Mr. Mtesigwa Maugo and Mr. Barry Kashambo, the commitment and professional management that they expended at CASSOA during the formative years that laid down the foundations of the Agency and overseeing the implementation of the 1st Development Strategy of the Agency among other key activities. As we celebrate the 8th Anniversary of CASSOA, we are confident that the race towards developing CASSOA into a Model Regional Aviation Safety and Security Oversight Agency respected across the globe is on and we call on the support of all our stakeholders in order to accomplish this Mission.
Happy 8th Anniversary for CASSOA.