US-based Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) may have restored category-I status to India’s aviation safety oversight mechanism but the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) would have to face a fresh review by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) in November this year.
DGCA chief M Sathiyavathy said, “The audit of our civil aviation sector is not ending with the FAA audit. We will be briefing the European Aviation safety Agency (EASA) next month about the measures we are taking to maintain our safety ranking. In November, we will have another audit by ICAO which will be a very comprehensive.”
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This would be the third time that ICAO would be assessing the country’s safety oversight mechanism after 2006 and 2012. The ICAO audit will be based on parameters such as aerodrome operations, air traffic control, airports, and air navigations.
Although a downgrade by ICAO will not have any direct impact on the regulator or on Indian airlines but it may trigger alarm bells among other aviation authorities. An ICAO audit of the DGCA in December 2012, which had put India in its list of 13 worst-performing nations, had prompted the FAA to conduct its own assessment of India’s compliance with ICAO standards under its International Aviation Safety Assessments (IASA) programme.
The FAA had subsequently downgraded India to category II status in safety oversight capability in January 2014 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 — 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.
The ICAO had highlighted 70 findings and recommendations related to lack of organisational structure in DGCA, shortage of trained manpower besides effective mechanism of resolution of safety concerns for passengers in its 2006 audit.