After failing a technical review as recently as last week, Mexico is even further from regaining its U.S. Category 1 aviation safety rating. 

Months away from Category 1

In a statement this Thursday, Mexico’s Ministry of Infrastructure, Communications, and Transportation (SICT) said that the country’s process to regain the highest rating required by the U.S is ongoing and concluded that it would be decided “in the coming months”.  

The aviation authority in the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) downgraded Mexico’s aviation sector safety rating to Category 2 on 25 May 2021, citing non-compliance with the minimum International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) safety standards. 

The FAA found up to 28 areas of non-compliance with the minimum ICAO safety standards, but said in a statement that the authority was “fully committed to helping the Mexican aviation authority improve its safety oversight system to a level that meets ICAO standards.”

The FAA can carry out up to 10 reviews before deciding whether to restore Mexico’s Category 1 rating. So far, the FAA has completed a total of seven reviews of the country’s safety rating since downgrading the country. 

The FAA’s most recent technical review was carried out last week as requested by Mexico’s aviation authority, the Federal Civil Aviation Agency (AFAC).

The FAA
The FAA was founded in 1958 and is the largest transportation agency of the U.S government in the country and over surrounding international waters. © AP / Andrew Harnik

While the Ministry of Infrastructure, Communications, and Transportation (SICT) maintains the results of this technical review will be announced “in the next 30 days”, industry experts who spoke with Mexican newspapers Reforma and Milenio claimed that the country had failed last week’s inspection.

Rogelio Rodríguez, a former executive with the aviation agency that AFAC replaced in 2019, said that the country still has not resolved the issues that lead to the downgrade to Category 2, specifically mentioning shortcomings in the training and assessment of AFAC personnel. Rodríguez told Reforma that AFAC was not able to show the FAA that it reviews its personnel to ensure that they are in an “optimal state of psycho-physical heath” – an important check-box for all aviation personnel but specifically pilots. 

A federal government official who spoke to Milenio anonymously said that the FAA detected more than 20 new deficiencies during the review last week. 

What does a Category 2 rating mean? 

According to the FAA, a Category 2 rating means that the country’s “laws or regulations lack the necessary requirements to oversee the country’s air carriers in accordance with minimum international safety standards, or the civil aviation authority is lacking in one or more areas such as technical expertise, trained personnel, record-keeping, inspection procedures, or resolution of safety concerns.” 

Crucially, the downgrade to Category 2 means that Mexican airlines can no longer add new flights to the United States, limiting the global expansion of various Mexican carriers who are looking to beef up their operations and offer more destinations to their customers.

Aeromexico aircraft
Aeromexico is Mexico’s flag carrier and the country’s oldest legacy airline. The carrier flies to many popular destinations in the U.S. such as Atlanta, New Orleans, Orlando, and Palm Springs. | © AFP / Getty Images

If Mexico did fail last week’s review, a conclusion that is looking to be incredibly likely, it does not squash its chances to regain the all-important Category 1 rating. The country’s latest failings and shortcomings can be addressed in the coming months “without problems”. 

What do you make of Mexico’s aviation sector attempting to make its way back into Category 1? Share all your thoughts in the comments below. 

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