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Cablegate: Codel Costello Reviews Civil Aviation

VZCZCXYZ0017
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHSJ #0195/01 0721927
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 121927Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY SAN JOSE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9517
INFO RUEHSN/AMEMBASSY SAN SALVADOR 5219

UNCLAS SAN JOSE 000195

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR H:DRICH AND WHA/CEN:RBEAL

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OREP PREL PGOV ETRD ECON EAIR SNAR CS
SUBJECT: CODEL COSTELLO REVIEWS CIVIL AVIATION

1. SUMMARY. On March 1-4, a Congressional delegation
(CODEL) led by the Aviation Subcommittee Chairman Jerry
Costello (D-IL) visited Costa Rica to review the aircraft
repair operations of Cooperativa Autogestionaria de
Servicios Aeroindustriales R.L. (COOPESA). COOPESA has
ongoing offshore repair contracts with several U.S.
airlines. The delegation seemed impressed by the quality
of work conducted at COOPESA. With Minister of Public
Transport (MOPT) Gonzalez, the CODEL discussed advances in
regional civil aviation, public-private partnerships for
highway development, and revenue sources for infrastructure
improvements. The CODEL also toured the Ministry of Public
Security's Air Wing, which has a major counter-narcotics
mission. This cable has been cleared by CODEL Costello.
END SUMMARY.

=========================
A CHECK ON CIVIL AVIATION
=========================

2. Rep. Jerry Costello (D-IL), Chairman of the Subcommittee
on Aviation, part of the House Transportation and
Infrastructure Committee, led the CODEL on a two-country
visit to El Salvador and Costa Rica, February 28 - March 4.
CODEL members (all making their first visit to Costa Rica)
are listed in paragraph eight. Associate Administrator of
Aviation Safety for the Federal Aviation Administration
(FAA) Nicolas Sabatini was included in the delegation. The
CODEL's goal was to observe the day-to-day operations of
major commercial aircraft repair stations located in Costa
Rica as well as to review "out-sourced" aircraft repair
facilities.

=====================
COOPESA OF COSTA RICA
=====================

3. On March 3, the delegation reviewed the work operations
of COOPESA, the leading aircraft repair facility in Costa
Rica. Based at San Jose's Juan Santamaria airport, COOPESA
has operated for 45 years as an employee-owned company.
The company's principle business is "line maintenance" for
cargo and passenger narrow-body Boeing aircraft such as the
727, 737, and 757. COOPESA can also perform "heavy
maintenance." In addition to servicing aircraft from
throughout the Americas, major U.S. companies including
Aloha airlines, CIT Group, and Ryan contract with COOPESA
for ongoing maintenance. Aloha alone accounts for about 30
percent of COOPESA's business. COOPESA, which has about 80
percent of the aircraft "line maintenance" market at Juan
Santamaria, also performs maintenance on an "as needed"
basis for American, Continental, and Delta Airlines.

4. COOPESA CEO Rimsky Buitrago described the company's
operations and business model to the delegation,
highlighting that aircraft and passenger safety was the
number one rule in his company. The delegation toured the
company's facilities, including stops in the parts
warehouse, a project control room, and two aircraft
undergoing repair in COOPESA's hangars. When asked by
CODEL members, Buitrago outlined maintenance procedures,
project tracking, and quality control issues. He also
explained to Rep. Hirono (D-HI) that although Aloha
Airlines did not serve the Central American market, the
company's management had determined that COOPESA could
deliver quality maintenance at a lower cost than its
previous maintenance provider in Canada. The delegation
praised COOPESA's attention to quality and commitment to
customer service.

=======================
CALLING ON THE MINISTER
=======================

5. After the COOPESA tour, the delegation met with the
Minister of Public Transport, Karla Gonzalez. Also
attending the meeting was Vice Minister Viviana Martin and
the Director General of Civil Aviation, Jorge Fernandez
Chacon. Chairman Costello described the delegation's
mission to Gonzalez and shared their positive observations
of COOPESA. Gonzalez acknowledged the importance of FAA
standards and influence in the development of aviation
safety policy worldwide. She noted that Costa Rica
obtained its "Category 1" rating in 2002, has maintained
the rating, and has set the standard for Guatemala and El
Salvador. The FAA's Sabatini commented on Costa Rica's
"quantum leap in the improvement of standards" and praised
the country, specifically Jorge Vargas, Director of Agencia
Centroamericana para la Seguridad Aeronautica (COCESNA),
for its leadership in the regionalization of aviation
safety in Central America.

6. Minister Gonzalez summarized Costa Rica's many
infrastructure challenges and said, "we have a long way to
go." Responding to several questions from Rep. DeFazio (D-
OR), Gonzalez said the GOCR paid for road improvements
through taxes but these revenues had not been allocated to
the Ministry for more than ten years. She reported that
only in January of this year, thanks to the leadership of
President Arias, the Ministry of Public Transport (MOPT)
had finally received its earmark for roads. Gonzalez also
explained that MOPT needed to achieve better progress to
structure public partnerships to improve the road system.
Rep. DeFazio recommended that MOPT consider the Spanish
system of public private partnership as a model to improve
Costa Rica's roads since he believed it was one of the more
successful partnerships in Europe. Chairman Costello
suggested that MOPT could use a financing mechanism of
dedicated taxes to support concessions for airport
improvements. In response, the Minister noted Costa Rica's
difficulties with concessions ("no successful concessions
of any kind") and that this was another area of much needed
improvement.

=========================
APPRECIATING THE AIR WING
=========================

7. Before departing Costa Rica, the delegation toured the
GOCR's Air Wing commanded by Colonel Oldemar Madrigal of
the Ministry of Public Security. Madrigal noted that some
of his equipment had been acquired as seized assets from
narco-traffickers. While showing the delegation the GOCR's
C7 Caribou under restoration, he described the Air Wing's
mission to combat drug trafficking, support security
efforts, and assist with disaster relief. Also, Embassy
staff noted NASA's scientific missions that are conducted
in part from facilities controlled by the Air Wing.
Chairman Costello appreciated the tour and noted how the
GOCR did admirable work with few resources.

8. Delegation Members:

-- Rep. Jerry Costello (D-IL)
-- Rep. Henry E. Brown (R-SC)
-- Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR)
-- Rep. Cliff Stearns(R-FL)
-- Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-HI)
-- Nicolas A. Sabatini, FAA
-- Janice McKinney, Speaker's Office
-- Jimmy Miller
-- Stacie Soumbeniotis
-- Holly Woodruff Lyons
-- Christa Fornarotto
-- Jana Denning
-- Deborah Omori, Doctor
-- MAJ Jeremy Glauber
-- SSG Will Reinhard
-- SGT Hermann Thomas

9. This cable has been cleared by CODEL Costello.

BRENNAN

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