The Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT) is an independent agency of the Thai government under the oversight of the country’s Ministry of Transport. Recently ICAO’s Asia/Pacific Regional Office spoke with the new Director-General of CAA Thailand, Mr. Suttipong Kongpool.
Q: Could you please briefly introduce yourself and tell us what your journey was like to get where you are in your career?
A: In 1993, I began my career as an Air Traffic Controller. After a while, I took on management responsibilities in policy and strategy, and I continued to grow in my career until I became the Executive Vice President of Safety and Standards. Accordingly, my journey has always been associated with the Civil Aviation Authority, even before becoming the Director-General of CAAT in February.
Back when I graduated, I was not aware of any career possibilities in the aviation industry. However, my interest in how things work brought me to the Aeronautical Radio of Thailand, also known as AEROTHAI.
A: My top priorities are the safe and secure aviation operations during the COVID-19 pandemic, the business restart, and the recovery period.
My mid-term goal is to strengthen Thailand’s safety oversight system with no regulatory burdens from mismatched requirements and the nonessentials. As for the long-term goal, I aim to achieve ICAO’s strategic objectives, including operation improvement, especially the Asia and Pacific Seamless (ANS) Plan.
Q: Considering the current COVID-19 impact on aviation, what do you think are the biggest challenges the aviation industry will face in the next five years? How do you see the aviation industry changing at this time?
A: COVID-19 has already dragged us into the pool of “we don’t know what we don’t know” business. Thus, the biggest challenge the aviation industry will face for at least the next five years is being encompassed with insecurity and uncertainty. We don’t know when or how often it will happen or manage risks against the unexpected. So, I would like to see the aviation industry, in terms of supply chain collaboration and experiment, more about unknown unknowns. These will become known unknowns that could build our confidence back soon.
Q: Any ideas on how ‘innovation’ could help in these challenging times for aviation? As a regulator, what innovations are you planning in your fight against the COVID-19 challenge?
A: One of our responsibilities is to develop Thailand’s air transportation system into being more digitized and efficient. For example, connecting the Advance Passenger Processing System (APPS) to the Domestic Advance Passenger Information (API) and implement it as the mandatory system extends its public health capability.
Also, my idea to help the aviation industry mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and make air travel safer is to spread peak demand in the airport passenger terminal by using slots for passengers and specific points allotted for an aircraft to land or take off the airport to manage capacity constraints.