In what could be seen as the first positive impact of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the United States on the Indian aviation sector, India’s embarrassing downgrade by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) earlier this year could be revoked, with the FAA team slated to carry out another inspection on December 8 this year.
This also comes in the backdrop of a three-member team visiting Brussels in the first week of November for a meeting with officials of the EU Air Safety Committee to discuss measures taken by the Indian aviation regulator, Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), to improve its performance after the FAA downgrade.
Finding regulatory oversight to be inadequate, the FAA had downgraded India from Category 1 to Category 2 under its International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) programme on January 31 earlier this year. The move has barred Air India and Jet Airways — the only two Indian airlines that operate to the US — from expanding their operations in the US and impacted codeshare arrangements with their American counterparts.
The DGCA needed to recruit 20 officials – chief flight operations inspectors (CFOI) — to deal with the staff shortage pertaining to Air India and Jet Airways. To improve it’s overall safety record, however, it needed to recruit 75 CFOIs.
“We have already recruited 56 new inspectors, of which 39 have already joined work, and the rest will join by next week. Applications are under process for rest of the 16 positions; and all 75 positions would be filled by November 16,” a senior DGCA official told The Indian Express.
While operations by Indian air carriers to and from EU are closely monitored through their Safety Assessment of Foreign Aircraft programme (SAFA), the FAA’s downgrade essentially meant that the DGCA was below par in meeting standards in technical expertise, trained manpower and maintenance records of air safety. It did not have skilled technical staff in the organisation.
“The FAA downgrade has a cascading effect, and the EU had raised concerns over the downgrade and the measures taken by the DGCA to better its performance. A DGCA team headed by Joint Director General Lalit Gupta will visit Brussels in the first week of November for a meeting with officials of the EU Air Safety Committee to discuss the measures taken,” an official said.
A Category 2 rating by the FAA has made India one of the 16 countries out of a total of 88 that have been assessed under IASA; the 16 include Bangladesh, Ghana, Indonesia, the Philippines and Nicaragua.