Written by Melisa Monje, Manager, Assessments & Accreditations, ACI World and Maria Elena Sandoval, Safety & Security Advisor, ACI LAC
The Airport Excellence Program (APEX) has resumed its activity since the pandemic forced us to think of alternative solutions to continue to assist our members in meeting operational compliance and aviation standards worldwide. The program is now offered through three different channels: virtual, hybrid, and the traditional on-site. Furthermore, we are also engaging with industry partners to embark on collaborative partnerships to assist member airports and continue to provide solutions to their operational needs.
ACI World has recently signed a Memorandum of Cooperation with the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to provide assistance to airports in the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region to ensure a high level of compliance to the applicable regulatory framework allowing for enhanced Aerodrome Certification in the region.
Airports in LAC show low compliance in the application of ICAO standards and recommended practices, such as aerodrome certification, implementation of the safety management system (SMS), and the use of the global reporting format (GRF), among others, which, in addition to being a commitment acquired by all signatory countries of the Chicago Convention, represent a risk to the safety of the operation and orderly transportation.
Approximately 56% of the airports in the region have obtained aerodrome certification. ACI’s APEX program is an excellent tool to help airports who are beginning their certification process by identifying gaps and improve their operations. Ultimately, the program is hoping to increase this percentage of compliance within the region.
For each APEX review, ACI convenes a group of airport experts in airport operations who volunteer their time to visit the airport, recognize gaps and areas for improvements, and then propose recommendations based on ICAO standards and industry best practices. After the visit, a report is submitted to the airport, which includes the non-conformities detected along with the recommendations on how to rectify them. This report serves as the basis for the preparation of the action plan that, once completed, will allow the airport to opt for certification.
The APEX program is also a mitigation measure for the risk posed by latent hazards that are present during day-to-day operations, since it allows airports to proactively identify failures in the airport system via a thorough review of operating procedures, airside infrastructure, and the systems and equipment used at the airfield.
The key to the success of this program has been the deployment of the airport community to provide mutual assistance through direct connections between the partners of the member airports, allowing them to directly exchange information in order to raise their safety standards and improve their practices, regardless of their location, size, development or complexity. Furthermore, the program is also used by several members as a training tool based on the extensive work conducted during the weeklong review and the exchange of knowledge with other airport experts.
Maria Elena Sandoval
Safety & Security Advisor, ACI LAC
María Elena Sandoval joined ACI-LAC in 2020 as a consultant, focusing mainly on operational issues and relations with ICAO and FAA. She entered the aeronautical sector in 2003, as an architect for the expansión project of Tocumen International Airport, after which she held the positions of head of maintenance and commercial architect until 2015 when she assumed the responsibility of the Office of the Safety Management System (SMS), a position that allowed her to lead the safety committees, coordination of emergency response and coordination of the APEX in Safety of the international airports of Tocumen and Panama Pacifico. After five years in this role, Maria Elena joined the Civil Aviation Authority of Panama, where she was in charge of the State Safety Program (SSP), a position that strengthened her ties with ICAO.