In the last few months, the military has been overtaking strategic posts within the Mexican Civil Aviation Authorities. The current Government is appointing present and former military men to run the civil aviation regulatory organizations in the country, leading to many questions regarding efficiency.
How did the military start overtaking Mexican Civil Aviation
The roots of the military being involved in the Mexican civil aviation sector are not new. Even in the last few years, the army men took the task of launching Mexico’s largest aeronautical event, better known as FAMEX. Every two years, since 2015, the National Defense Secretariat (Sedena) has been in charge of launching this event, which now rivals the Chilean FIDAE. These two airshows are Latin America’s Farnborough vs. Le Bourget.
Nevertheless, since the new Mexican government took power at the end of 2018, the military has taken off. This has happened not only in the civil aviation sector but in many other strategic areas across Mexico.
Currently, three major civil aviation organizations are being run by the military in Mexico. We will review the history of these three organizations.
The Civil Aviation Federal Agency
Mexico launched the Civil Aviation Federal Agency (AFAC) at the end of 2019. It is the equivalent of the Federal Aviation Administration in the US. The AFAC is in charge of overseeing the civil aviation industry in Mexico. It is also responsible for the recent FAA’s downgrade of Mexico’s safety rating.
The first general director of AFAC was a man called Rodrigo Vásquez Colmenares. He had long experience in the civil aviation industry, having previously worked with Mexicana de Aviación and other carriers.
He left his job mid-November 2020, a month after the FAA started its International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) in Mexico. A few weeks later, Mexico’s president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, appointed a new director for AFAC. This time, the military arrived. The retired Mexican Air Force commander, General Carlos Rodríguez Munguía, took the open post.
He’s been in charge ever since and now has the not-easy task of regaining Mexico’s Category 1 with the FAA.
The military overtaking Mexico’s civil aviation has one critical moment: Mexico City’s New International Airport’s scrapping in 2018. Following a controversial referendum, López Obrador rushed to cancel this hub (30% complete) and start a new one. He chose the Military Base of Santa Lucía, north of Mexico City.
The new airport will be military and civilian and set to open up on March 21, 2021. The Sedena is in charge of the construction.
It is still unknown if Santa Lucía’s airport will work commercially. There have been many doubts regarding the joint operations of Santa Lucía and Mexico City International Airport. Nevertheless, this new hub will open up next year, even if Mexico hasn’t fully recovered from the COVID-19 crisis or is still in Category 2.
The military also overtook a Training Center
Since 1952, Mexico has had a Civil Aviation International Training Center (better known as CIAAC). The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) launched the center to raise the standards of operation within Mexican civil aviation.
CIAAC is an aviation school and answers to Mexico’s Communications and Transportation Secretariat.
Earlier this week, the Mexican Government appointed a new military to run CIAAC. His name is Benjamin Romero Fuentes, and he is a former Commander of the Mexican Air Forces.