The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) may have restored category I status to India’s aviation safety oversight mechanism but the upgrade has been accorded based on DGCA’s promise to meet four stringent conditions in up to a year’s time. The FAA may come for an audit again in 12 months to assess the development.
Sources in the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) informed the FAA has specified the local aviation regulator would have to hire a total of 72 flight operations inspectors (FOIs), recertify all scheduled airlines, non-scheduled operators (NSOPs) and flying training organisations to retain the top ranking.
A senior official in the DGCA told The Indian Express, “We are required to re-certify or issue fresh air operator’s permit (AOP) to all scheduled as well as non-scheduled operators, flying training organisations to ensure full compliance with international norms. The entire process would take about a year’s time.” The FAA may choose to conduct a fresh audit of the aviation safety oversight mechanism again at the time.
The DGCA had recertified the two airlines — Air India and Jet Airways — operating to the US, ahead of a FAA audit in December last year; recertification process has now started for IndiGo, SpiceJet, GoAir and Air Costa. “This process of issue of fresh AOPs to scheduled operators will take up to four months,” added the official. Newer ventures AirAsia India, Vistara and Air Costa have already been issued their AOP as per new norms laid down under CAP 3100 certification process.
The DGCA would also have to recertify all non-scheduled operators and flying training organisations, which would take around a year. As of last month, there were as many as 35 flying training organisations and 122 NSOPs registered with the regulator.
The regulator would also have to recruit additional FOIs. The DGCA had received approval from the Centre to hire 75 FOIs at market-linked salaries in January 2014 but has managed to bring on-board 55 FOIs till now.
A team of officials from FAA concluded a two-day review of DGCA on March 31, 2015 to review the progress on findings indicated after an audit done in December last year. Subsequently, India was upgraded to CAT I status.
The FAA had downgraded India to category II status in safety oversight capability in January last year on two key concerns — lack of training of its officials and lack of full-time FOIs on DGCA’s rolls.
The downgrade meant that no Indian airline could launch any additional flights to the US and the existing flights to America could be subjected to more checks which could lead to delays.
While the downgrade did not mean that Indian airlines were unsafe, it showed that the FAA’s Indian counterpart — the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) — was not adequately equipped to properly monitor the safety performance of Indian carriers.
The downgrade additionally barred Indian airlines from code-sharing with their American counterparts.
FAA audited eight critical areas of India’s safety oversight system between Dec 8 and 12, 2014 and indicated some findings consequently, mainly dealing with the lack of adequate number of flight operations inspectors.