See the actual letter as a pdf.
I am contacting both of you with my concerns about the safety of commercial air travel in or originating from Thailand; and specifically about allegations calling into question whether Thailand's Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is in compliance with international standards of airline safety oversight.
These allegations were brought to my attention by a constituent of mine, Ms. Bonnie Rind of Newton, MA, whose brother was one of five Americans among ninety killed in a commercial crash in Phuket, Thailand on September 16, 2007. Ms. Rind was privately investigating the circumstances of her brother's crash when she found out that the Federal Aviation Administration's International Aviation Assessment Program (IASA) had begun an audit of Thailand based on its own concerns about the Thai CAA. The IASA program is charged with auditing every foreign Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) of a country with access rights to the United States to determine if they are in compliance with the safety standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Ms. Rind contacted the FAA's IASA office and they agreed to receive and investigate as part of their audit of Thailand a large amount of evidence that she had been collecting which included serious allegations from pilots, airline management, and Thai CAA officials of corruption, cronyism, falsification of safety data, lack of training and experience, and other indications that Thai CAA condoned or ignored dangerous flying practices by Thai-based airlines.
I understand that this audit of the Thai CAA has now concluded and the decision has been made to continue to classify Thailand as a "Category 1" nation, meaning its commercial flight oversight has been judged to meet or exceed basic international safety standards. I also understand that the FAA's policy is not to discuss details or even publicly acknowledge an investigation of another country unless a decision is made to change that country's safety rating either for the better or the worse. As a result, the FAA has refused to give any information to Ms. Rind or my staff about their findings on Thailand, beyond an acknowledgment that even before her brother's plane crash they had serious concerns about Thai safety oversight, and that as a result of their investigation and unspecified actions by Thailand, the United States has decided to continue to certify that Thailand is in compliance with international safety standards. Furthermore, the FAA has indicated that it would seek to block any FOIA request by Ms. Rind for more information about this decision
I am writing to ask that the relevant departments within the Department of Transportation or the Department of State be more forthcoming at least with me about the Thai CAA investigation, including what concerns triggered it and what steps were taken by Thailand to address these concerns. I would also like assurance that the IASA investigators thoroughly investigated the material that Ms. Rind compiled from pilots and others involved in Thai aviation alleging that the Thai CAA tolerated corruption, falsification of data and other illegal or unsafe practices by Thai-based airlines. The following are some examples:
I have no independent knowledge of these events, but clearly allegations of bribery, falsification of safety data, whistle-blowers being ignored by the Thai CAA, and so forth, are very troubling when raised in connection with aviation safety oversight, and it would seem to be vitally important to establish whether they are indicative of a larger pattern.
I look forward to receiving more information in this regard about the IASA's oversight of Thai CAA. I believe this is a very important matter, particularly given that 700,000 Americans visit Thailand each year and the State Department web sites notifies visitors that the FAA has determined Thailand is in compliance with international safety oversight standards.
I would also like to be able to convey to Ms. Rind or others who are especially concerned about this issue any information that I receive about the investigation. As you know, President Obama announced last week that federal agencies should be committed to principles of openness, transparency and engagement with citizens. I was very pleased to hear the President's statement, and I am hopeful that the start of the Obama Administration does in fact inaugurate an era of much less secrecy. However, in this particular case, if any of the relevant departments have concerns or objections about my passing such information along, either in whole or in part, please do not hesitate to let me know.
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This campaign brought to you in memory of the passengers of Flight OG 269.
Please direct inquires to Bonnie at InvestigateUdom.com.