Government forms new aircraft acquisition committee

The government Friday approved the formation of a new aircraft acquisition committee which will consider proposals by airlines on how to meet air traffic demand.

"The committee will consider, examine and make recommendations on all proposals for providing air transport services," the civil aviation ministry said in a statement, adding that the committee will also look into approvals for aircraft imports.

According to the statement, the procedure for import of aircraft has been streamlined with stipulated time-lines being placed for various stages of processing.  "AAC shall examine proposals from the perspectives of air transport capacity, safety, security, financial, commercial and other relevant aspects of the proposal," the statement said.
The AAC will also look into the operations of scheduled air transport services providers, regional airlines and non-scheduled air transport services.

The existing AAC is currently non-functional as it has been dissolved. Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh said earlier that a new AAC will be formed, which would look at business plans, finances and other related aspects of purchase of aircraft.

The government had come under fire recently for its earlier decision allowing Air India and the erstwhile Indian Airlines to go in for a mega aircraft-purchase deal in 2005-06, which resulted in the passenger carrier incurring huge debts.

There were also fears that buying more aircraft would create overcapacity in the market, further bleeding, thereby, an already burdened industry. Another point in the issue is the ministry's plans for allowing greater connectivity to the tier-I and II cities that is possible only through smaller aircraft, which airlines go in for rarely.

"We are going to nudge airlines to fly to smaller airports. There is no question of forcing the airlines to buy any kind of aircraft..they are free to decide that," Singh said in the recently concluded Economic Editors' meet here.

However, the move may not be welcomed by the aviation industry as it claims that acquisition of aircraft should be based upon their existing needs and fleet composition. "The new AAC is at a very early stage and nothing can be said about its function and future course of action," a senior official with a domestic carrier told IANS.

"However, selecting the right aircraft type for the markets depends upon finances, skilled manpower for the new type, operations schedule, maintenance, engineering and operations.  This should be best left to the airlines themselves," he added.

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