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Civil Aviation Committee under Criminal Investigation for Fraud, Rigged Inspections, Forgery of Official Documents 

The Prosecutor General’s office has issued a press release by which it states of a criminal case instigated based on Article 314, Part 1 (Official Fraud) against a number of officials of the Civil Aviation Committee for forging official documents between 2016 and 2019, including documents related aviation inspections. More specifically, false data were documented in the sheets of air carrier inspection sheets and subsequently official documents were forged.

The Prosecutor General’s office had earlier received documents from the State Supervision Service of Armenia based on which an investigation opened․ While unspecified, the release states that a private company operating in Armenia applied to the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) for a permission to use the European airspace, however received an audit conclusion with 15 instances of incompliance with international aviation safety regulations, of which 5 were a direct threat to flight safety. The audit was officially sent to the e-mail address of the Civil Aviation Committee on August 15, 2019, however the relevant officers in charge of internal document circulation, did not enter the official letter in the official “Mulberry” intranet and did not follow up on it. The head of the Civil Aviation was reported verbally that the audit had not identified any significant issues.

“As a result, the reputation of the Civil Aviation Committee, more specifically, the due implementation of its functions, was placed under a scrutiny by the international organization, and a threat was created that the aircraft registered in Armenia might be banned in the EU airspace,” states the Prosecutor General’s Office.

The safety regulation issues specified by the EASA should have been identified during the regular inspections conducted by the relevant specialists of the Aviation Committee between 2016 and 2019. Not only did they omit them, the inspection certificates also included clearly forged information on the non-existence of safety regulation incompliances. The materials are transferred to the Investigative Committee for further preliminary investigation.

While the Prosecutor General’s press release does not identify, it can be assumed that the company in matter is Taron Avia LLC. In July 2019, as part of its TCO (third country operation) authorisation process, EASA conducted an on-site visit to Armenia’s Civil Aviation Committee (‘CAC’) and to two air carriers, namely Taron Avia LLC and Atlantis European Airways. EASA concluded that CAC had not systematically followed the established certification process when updating the Operations Specifications of these air carriers. It overall concluded that the Civil Aviation Committee of Armenia was lacking capacity to identify significant non-compliances with international safety standards by the air carriers.

The EU Commission’s release of December 10, 2019 on the relevant regulation of air safety, details the communication with the Civil Aviation Committee. Apparently, another letter was sent to CAC on October 11, 2019 containing EASA’s safety concerns and Taron Avia LLC with a request to attend a hearing in Brussels in November. Early in November 2019, Taron Avia’s air operation certificate was revoked, although in her press conferences, the head of CAC, Tatevik Revazyan assured that Taron Avia decided to suspend flights on its own.

During a hearing at the European Commission’s Air Safety Committee in Brussels on November 20, the Civil Aviation Committee of Armenia assured the regulatory bodies of the EU that their institution was going through a serious restructuring and developing human resource development policies in order to tackle issues related to carrier safety inspections.

It is perhaps due to these assurances and Taron Avia’s termination of operations, that Armenia did not fall into the “black list” of countries, unsafe air carriers of which are banned from the European air space.

The criminal investigation is yet to reveal the circumstances under which airworthiness and operation safety inspections are falsified in Armenia.