On Sept. 27, the triennial assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) will convene in Montreal to continue its mission of overseeing international aviation safety. Taiwan, which has responsibility for one of the busiest aviation hubs in East Asia, needs to participate in this assembly.
The Republic of China (Taiwan) was a founding member of ICAO, a United Nations Specialized Agency. After losing its U.N. membership in 1971, Taiwan was excluded from ICAO. In 2013, Taiwan was invited to participate in the assembly as a guest of the president of the ICAO Council. Taiwan’s presence at that assembly was judged to be a success and consistent with ICAO’s goals. This year, with the support of the U.S. and other members, we are seeking to participate once again.
Taiwan needs to be part of ICAO because it is an indispensable player in global aviation safety. The Taipei Flight Information Region (FIR), which is administered by Taiwan’s Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA), covers 180,000 nm and borders four other FIRs: Fukuoka, Manila, Hong Kong and Shanghai. In 2015, Taiwan’s CAA provided over 1.53 million instances of air traffic control services and handled 58 million incoming and outgoing passengers.
Taiwan’s Taoyuan International Airport in 2015 ranked 11th in the world in passenger volume and sixth for cargo, according to the most recent statistics from Airports Council International. Seventy-four airlines operate passenger and cargo flights in and out of Taiwan following 301 scheduled passenger and freight routes that connect the country to 135 cities globally.
Despite its location in the busiest section of airspace in East Asia, Taiwan’s CAA has had no direct access to ICAO for the past 40 years and has only indirectly gained information, in some cases incomplete, on ICAO regulations and standards related to safety, management, security and environmental protection. The CAA has had to resort to various informal channels to keep up with the development of ICAO’s regulations and standards and overcome the difficulties associated with a lack of transparency in order to maintain adequate safety levels and service standards in the Taipei FIR. The CAA has had to make an extra effort to keep abreast of constant updates to flight safety and security standards set by ICAO. Obtaining that information often has been a costly and drawn-out process.
In some instances, Taiwan’s route and navigation designations have had to be changed to bring them into sync with ICAO’s codes after the information already has been posted and announced. This can cause tremendous inconvenience and present obstacles for flight operations. It can result in misunderstandings or confusion among foreign civil aviation organizations and companies and interfere with ICAO’s efforts to promote flight safety and convenience.
In addition to obtaining timely access to ICAO information and standards, by participating in ICAO Taiwan can contribute to regional and global aviation safety by sharing its advanced aviation technologies with other members. One such technology is Taiwan’s development of a CNS/ATM (communications, navigation and surveillance air traffic management) system, which was proposed by ICAO in the late 1980s as the basis for a worldwide system for all air navigation services that would allow ICAO to manage the tremendous growth in air traffic around the world.
Such a system requires an intricate, connected group of satellite-based technologies. To develop the system, Taiwan invested in significant human and material resources. It solved the technical challenges that arose during the development phase and in 2011 became the first country in Asia to bring the new system online. As a result of the new technology, Taiwan has witnessed increased efficiency in its aviation services, and our experts believe the knowledge and experience gained in creating and operating the system will be useful to other ICAO members.
To meet its responsibilities, ICAO must concern itself with aviation safety, navigation, security, environmental protection and economics. It can only meet these challenges by fostering cooperation among all countries. Although it is not a member of ICAO, Taiwan’s civil aviation authority, through investment and innovation, has exceeded the achievements of counterparts in many other countries while striving to meet ICAO’s flight safety and security regulations.
We are very confident that, by attending the ICAO assembly and other related meetings, we will be able to better follow the latest developments in global civil aviation and contribute our expertise. Including Taiwan in ICAO would help improve management of civil aviation in the Asia-Pacific region and ensure the safety of all passengers.
Stanley Kao is the ambassador at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the U.S.