Ho Chi Minh FIR: A milestone in history of aviation sector

09:16 | 06/09/2019 Companies

(VEN) - As part of the Vietnamese civil aviation sector, the Vietnam Air Traffic Management Corporation (VATM) has contributed significantly to the country’s development. Vietnam has been given the right to manage the southern part of the Ho Chi Minh Flight Information Region (FIR). This event has opened a new development period for VATM and the Vietnamese civil aviation sector in general. 

ho chi minh fir a milestone in history of aviation sector
A working session at the Tan Son Nhat Air Traffic Control Tower

Significant event

Prior to 1975, the Ho Chi Minh FIR was called Saigon FIR, established at the Middle East and South East Asia Regional Air Navigation Meeting in Rome in 1959, consisting of the airspace of Vietnam’s national sovereignty and the airspace over international waters in the East Sea.

In April 1975, the fall of the Saigon administration made the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) worried about the stagnation of air traffic in the region when Southern Vietnam was liberated. In this context, ICAO worked out a temporary air navigation scheme consisting of the establishment of alternative air traffic routes over the East Sea and the division of the Saigon FIR over international waters in the East Sea into three temporary responsibility areas. ICAO assigned the Bangkok, Singapore and Hong Kong Area Control Centers to provide air traffic services for flights operating within these three areas. The rest of the Saigon FIR was managed by the Ho Chi Minh Area Control Center. In 1977, following the liberation of Southern Vietnam, the Vietnam Communist Party and the Government began struggling to regain the right to control the entire Ho Chi Minh FIR.

Prior to the third Asia-Pacific Regional Air Navigation Meeting (RAN-3), the Communist Party and the Government decided to promote investment in the aviation sector to affirm ICAO and countries participating in RAN-3 that Vietnam was sufficiently capable to take over and manage the entire Ho Chi Minh FIR.

Efforts were concentrated on upgrading and modernizing the Ho Chi Minh Area Control Center as well as the Tan Son Nhat and Da Nang Approach Control Units. At the same time, other activities were carried out to improve management capabilities of the Hanoi FIR, including repair and maintaining the use of the existing technical equipment and procurement of new systems required by ICAO for use in six major sectors including air traffic services, communication, navigation, surveillance, aeronautical, meteorology, search and rescue. Training activities were intensified to provide human resources with sufficient technical qualifications and English language proficiency in accordance with ICAO’s standards.

A set of documents including rules on air traffic services, communication services and meteorological services have been compiled in accordance ICAO’s standards and recommended practices. The law on Vietnam’s civil aviation was drafted and submitted to the National Assembly for approval. On March 12, 1993, the Communist Party and the Government agreed to allow the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV) to invest five radar stations for aviation surveillance purposes. CAAV has invested a radar system for the Ho Chi Minh FIR.

Following RAN-2, RAN-3 and a number of meetings, negotiations and conferences held between ICAO and representatives of the Vietnamese Government in the spirit of respect for international laws and practices, RAN-3 participants reached a consensus on a resolution that was approved by the ICAO Council at the ninth meeting of the 140th session on November 24, 1993. The resolution of the council said Vietnam would take over and manage the southern part of the Ho Chi Minh FIR one year after the ICAO Council approved the resolution.

On December 7, 1994, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Convention on International Civil Aviation, also known as the Chicago Convention, the Vietnamese Government held a solemn ceremony to celebrate the 50th anniversary of ICAO’s establishment and receive the right to manage the southern part of the Ho Chi Minh FIR.

On December 8, 1994, the Ho Chi Minh Area Control Center began managing the southern part of the Ho Chi Minh FIR, controlling and providing air traffic services for all civil aviation activities within the FIR.

This was a significant event in terms of politics, economics and national security. It enhanced Vietnam’s voice in debates on issues related to territorial sovereignty over the East Sea, affirming Vietnam’s position in the international civil aviation sector and military activities to ensure safety for flights to the Spratly Islands.

The event laid the firm foundation for Vietnam to regain the right to manage a majority of the northern part of the Ho Chi Minh FIR and define the boundary between the Ho Chi Minh FIR and adjacent FIRs.

ho chi minh fir a milestone in history of aviation sector
Tan Son Nhat Air Traffic Control Tower

Three pillars

Over the past 25 years, all staff members of VATM have made nonstop efforts to ensure absolute safety for nearly nine million flights within its responsibility airspace. For many consecutive years, the corporation has been a leading unit of the Vietnamese aviation sector in terms of productivity, quality and efficiency, with total revenue from flight management reaching nearly VND48 trillion, and tax payment exceeding VND25 trillion.

VATM has paid great attention to developing air traffic management services and promoting Vietnam’s integration to the international air transport market.

According to Pham Viet Dung, Chairman of VATM’s Member Council, the corporation is making further efforts to improve its air traffic management capability to ensure absolute safety for 800,000-one million flights within Vietnam’s FIRs in 2020, double the number of flights in 2010. By 2030, the number of flights is expected to increase to 1.2 million-1.5 million, ensuring the quality of air traffic management services according to international standards adopted by the Vietnamese Ministry of Transport and ICAO. VATM will gradually access low-layer air traffic management techniques and improve its capability to manage flight operation over the marine areas and islands of Vietnam’s sovereignty.

Dang Hien