The International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) will begin its Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP) of the Indian civil aviation sector starting Monday, which will last till November 16.
Under this audit, the ICAO will study various aspects of the sector such as The ICAO conducts audit in areas related to accident investigation, operations, airworthiness, air navigation, aerodromes, organisational structures, legislation, licensing patterns, policies for implementing laid down procedures, among others. Representatives of ICAO, who are expected to arrive in India on Saturday, are also likely to review the functioning of operators including GoAir, Air India Charters, Kestrel Aviation, among others.
The audit of this magnitude, which was last conducted by ICAO in 2006, comes at a time when India has emerged as one of the fastest growing domestic aviation markets in the world, clocking double-digit growth for 37 straight months till end of September this year. According to industry sources, ICAO representatives are scheduled to visit select facilities in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and other cities.
When contacted, William Raillant-Clark, communications officer at the office of ICAO Secretary General said in an e-mail: “Please be advised that information on these audits is governed by an MoU which prescribes in detail what we can or cannot audit or publish for all of ICAO’s 191 member states. Furthermore, please note that ICAO never comments on local air transport matters, which are the purview of your suitable national agencies and officials.”
A senior Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) official told The Indian Express that the initial part of this exercise involved the regulator answering a detailed protocol questionnaire with 600 questions about the country’s aviation sector, along with providing the UN body with evidence proving the answers. This was completed, the official added, back in August. Beginning Monday, the ICAO will begin physical inspection of the systems put in place by the regulator, the government, and the companies. Initially, the Indian authorities are expected to make a presentation on the civil aviation system of India to ICAO members, followed by the representatives conducting audit of the legal and organisational systems.
Furthermore, DGCA has also hired 75 flight operation inspectors to meet the ICAO norms, with the last ones of the 75 being hired last month. According to another source, for the audit of the industry, training organisations, operators and maintenance, design and manufacturing organisations for reviewing their functioning.
Although not under USOAP, the ICAO had conducted a shorter version of the audit in 2012 as well, after which Indian civil aviation authorities faced embarrassment on account of the severe safety concerns raised about India’s aviation sector by the multilateral organisation. A major aspect of the lacuna in safety standards back in 2012 was the shortfall in number of flight operations inspectors — which according to the norms are supposed to be one for every 10 aircraft.