Japan has put in a request to audit the functioning of the Indian aviation safety regulator,an unprecedented move that calls into question the standing of the organisation globally.
Two other bodies,the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA),audited the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) in August and September respectively. Both audits cleared DGCA,enabling India to hold on to its category one status,the highest level of safety certification.
The ICAO audit followed concerns over the lack of adequate checks on the airworthiness of aircraft in India,and doubts over the enforcement of operating standards.
The FAA audit showed a lack of coordination on flight operations within the DGCA and alleged procedural lapses by the regulator in certifying airworthiness. FAA cleared DGCA,but put it up for review in five months.
The request from Japan came last month,just before the ICAO audit was carried out,it is learnt. According to a senior DGCA officer,the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB) sought a safety talk with DGCA,seen as the first step in an audit.
But India is learnt to be cold to the possibility of the Japanese audit. Civil Aviation Secretary K N Srivastava has
written to the Indian ambassador in Japan,asking that the issue of the safety talk be raised at an appropriate level in the Japanese government.
They want to conduct a safety talk with us on the issue. While no dates have been suggested,we do not see the need for any safety talk,especially since we have cleared the ICAO audit, the DGCA official said.
The concern on airworthiness flows from the approval given to major modifications and repairs carried out on foreign manufactured aircraft registered in India. The concern on operations relates to the procedure for granting the Air Operator Permit to non-scheduled operators,and the flight documentation system of scheduled airlines.
In his missive,Srivastava has said that there should not be any concern over Indias safety after the ICAO has retained the category one status for us, a government official involved in the exercise said.
Japans safety concerns have held up Air Indias plan to switch to the Boeing 787 Dreamliner from the 777s that it currently flies on the India-Japan route. AI operates four weekly flights on the Delhi-Tokyo route and three flights on the Delhi-Osaka route via Hong Kong. Changing the aircraft type is expected to make the routes profitable.