PM asked to overhaul aviation industry

Establish civil aeronautics policy group, says panel

With the civil aviation sector on a downward spiral, a high-level panel has suggested the Prime Minister to overhaul the entire sector with a clear thought out policy and road map to make it as competitive as other Asian powers including China.

The industry is going through a turbulent phase in recent months and India’s position in international civil aviation has declined over the decades, says the Scientific Advisory Council to the Prime Minister (SAC-PM) in its report submitted to the PMO, a copy of which is available with Deccan Herald.

On the contrary, the Chinese civil aircraft industry has become the third largest in the world, next only to Airbus and Boeing. Beijing now considers civil aviation and aeronautics more important than military aviation, claims SAC-PM.

Growth is visible in Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and UAE too, which are running huge operations. But India is unable to exploit its domestic traffic, leave alone international traffic, though civilian air traffic is rapidly growing. A large part of the country is still not connected by air.

Headed by national research professor C N R Rao, the SAC-PM has recommended establishing a civil aeronautics policy group to frame policies to link cities by air, encourage entry of private companies in civil and military aeronautics, create guidelines for public-private partnership and establish a credible decision-making and conflict-resolving mechanism.

“Even though India has the world’s third largest market for aircrafts, the civil aircraft industry is virtually non-existent,” it rues.

The SAC-PM echoes some of the recommendations made by the 2004 Naresh Chandra panel that reviewed the civil aviation sector in detail and ushered in deregulation. Both suggested changes in policies to boost local aeronautics manufacturing but progress on the ground has been slow.

For instance, one of the problems for the manufacturers is that their products are not type certified by the Federal Aviation Administration of USA or Joint Airworthiness Authority (JAA) of Europe. Though FAA/JAA certification is not mandatory for all markets, buyers abroad often insist on this to have confidence in the product safety and reliability.

But individual firms cannot obtain these certificates as it requires prior agreement. Absence of such pacts is a stumbling block for Indian manufacturers. The regulatory regime in civil aviation needs to be re-examined thoroughly. “It is contrary to fundamental principles of administration to have the same agency responsible for manufacture, certification and safety regulations,” says the SAC-PM report.

According to a recent audit by the Director General of Civil Aviation, there are safety concerns over most of the airlines flying in India including the only profitable airline.

The SAC-PM suggested involvement of academic institutes in aircraft manufacturing, participation of management schools to understand and sort out problems in the existing PPP model and framing policy guidelines to rope in foreign partners.

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