WHAT little I know about aviation as a paying passenger, it looks like NAIA is in good hands. Between a general manager who’s spent “all my life” in the airport on the ground and a technocrat who has served five presidents and one pope up in the air as their pilot, we may now TWA – “travel with angels” by Bishop Fulton Sheen’s reckoning.
Ed Monreal, NAIA general manager, and Capt. Manuel Antonio “Skee” Taylo, who heads the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, appeared to be a compatible pair when they met “Bulong Pulungan” Tuesday. Ed, whose last job was with Cathay Pacific, was only too glad to get back to work after a two-year hiatus; and so was Mrs. Monreal, who could’ve pushed him out the door if he had turned down Digong’s call to rescue NAIA from a well-deserved reputation as one of the world’s worst.
All those years of observing and experiencing NAIA up close, what was his lingering complaint? “The bureaucracy,” he replied after a moment’s hesitation. How badly will the bureaucracy hamper our dreams to see a new airport before 2022? Mr. Monreal hasn’t seen any of many plans, though “by IATA standards it shouldn’t be farther than 100 km from downtown.”
As for the future of aviation, “it’s is in the hands of the airlines,” he said, speaking like a true airline executive. “We’re here to support them.” For now, we have 82 airports all over the country, and they’re under Capt. Skee, who earned his nickname from a TV character whom he was said to resemble. Actually, he’s a bit like “Sully,” the US Airways pilot who landed his jet on the Hudson River in New York and saved every passenger on board.
Calm, cool, seemingly unflappable even with a smiling face, the CAAP chief wants NAIA’s category-1 to be sustained with the cooperation of Airbus, Boeing, and the European-based Bureau Veritas. “Airport security is based on eight disciplines,” he said, “NAIA is weak in three.” As the Pope’s flight commander will assure you, there’s always room for improvement.