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Air safety oversight mechanism: DGCA categorises carriers on the basis of aircraft size

The ICAO had highlighted 70 findings and recommendations related to lack of organisational structure in DGCA.

Written by Sharmistha Mukherjee |
August 19, 2015 2:15:35 am
India aviation safety, aviation safety oversight mechanis, Civil Aviation DGCA, international Civil Aviation Organisation, ICAO, indian aviation, indian aviation safety status, indian aviation saftey standrad, aviation safety ranking, Indian flights, civil aviation, Directorate General of Civil Aviation, DGCA, Indian express, business news The regulator has classified air transportation keeping in view provisions of ICAO, FAA, EASA and drafted complementary regulations for both certification and operations of aircraft in India.

In a bid to align the country’s aviation safety oversight mechanism with the best international practices, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has for the first time classified air transport services into four categories and commenced work to frame proportionate regulations for commercial and non-commercial aircraft operations depending on the size of aircraft deployed by each operator. The measure comes ahead of a safety audit by international Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) in November.

A senior official in the DGCA said, “Currently, there is no basic document that classifies air transport operations which has led to varying interpretations and lack of clarity in the scope of commercial operations and the attendant safety oversight obligations. We have studied the global norms as outlined by ICAO, FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) and EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency) and come up with four categories of services for which we will frame proportionate regulations.”

The regulator has classified air transportation keeping in view provisions of ICAO, FAA, EASA and drafted complementary regulations for both certification and operations of aircraft in India. The classifications and regulations, scheduled to be finalised by end 2015, will become effective from February 2016.

As per norms outlined by DGCA, air transport service providers will be classified under four heads — those conducting commercial air transport operations with large and turbojet aircraft weighing over 5,700 kg for domestic and international operations (this would include scheduled commercial airlines, some non-scheduled (NSOPs) and proposed regional commuter carriers); those carrying out domestic commercial air transport operations with small aircraft weighing below 5,700 kg (this would include all scheduled and non-scheduled aircraft for regional/remote connectivity conducted with non-turbojet aircraft with limited all up weight and passenger seating capacity); general aviation operations with large and turbojet aircraft (this would include all operations except commercial air transport operation or an aerial work operation conducted with bigger aircraft but not available to the general public. These would include both domestic and international operations. This would include state/government, corporate/business operations with larger aircraft for non-commercial purposes); and general aviation operations with smaller aircraft (this would include all operations other than commercial air transport operations or aerial work operations conducted with aircraft below 5,700 kg).

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These regulations will ensure ‘ease of doing business’ for small aircraft operators in the country. At present, small aircraft operators also have to go through the same process to fetch operator’s permit and comply with the same operational regulations as large aircraft operators.

The certification regulations based on the above classification would have no distinction between aircraft and helicopters although operating regulations will address the specific requirements of both categories of both categories of aircraft.

“This classification would not only bring clarity to operators as regards safety norms they need to follow for certification and subsequent operations, it will also help us in deploying our resources more optimally and making our oversight mechanism more effective,” added the official.

Come November, ICAO would be assessing the country’s safety oversight mechanism for the third time 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.

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