All safety issues addressed: DGCA to FAA

All safety issues addressed: DGCA to FAA

Warned of a downgrade by Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), aviation regulator DGCA has filed a status report with its US counterpart, saying concerns over all aviation safety issues have been addressed, official sources said today.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation filed its report with FAA last night after the Union Cabinet approved a Civil Aviation Ministry proposal to allow the regulator to hire a large number of experienced professional and technical hands directly from the market instead of going through the UPSC recruitment route and pay them salaries at market rates.

Indian Ambassador to the US, S Jaishankar, was also in constant touch with the US Department of Transport on the issue, the sources told PTI, adding that the seven remaining safety issues have now been addressed.

The FAA is likely to submit its safety audit report on DGCA in the next few days and send a team to India in a few weeks to ascertain whether all the concerns raised by them have been addressed, the sources said.

After two rounds of audit in September and December last, FAA had mentioned 33 issues in which deficiencies found and asked DGCA to take corrective measures. DGCA had then taken expeditious steps to close all issues, barring seven.

The sources said now the remaining ones too have been taken care of with the Cabinet yesterday clearing the proposal to allow DGCA recruit 75 senior technical staffers to meet the needs of a burgeoning air traffic, the sources said.

On the basis of its safety sudit report, FAA would decide whether to downgrade India's aviation safety status or maintain it at the current top Category-I. 

An FAA downgrade of India's air safety rankings would effectively bar Air India and Jet Airways from increasing flights to the US from what they currently operate or have any new code-share relationships with any US airline.

However, it would not mean that these airlines are unsafe but show that the DGCA's safety oversight may not be enough to properly monitor safety performance of Indian carriers.

Among the concerns raised by the FAA over 33 issues were filling up of several senior positions including those of full-time Flight Operations Inspectors (FOIs), beefing up of aviation safety training programmes and preparing manuals and documentation on certain safety issues.

FOIs are senior pilots who would be taken on contract and paid salaries consistent with the industry norms that could be higher than that of the DGCA chief himself. An estimated Rs 40 crore would be needed annually for this purpose.

Another concern highlighted by the FAA about training DGCA officers on the new types of aircraft entering the Indian market, including the Boeing 787 Dreamliners, would be addressed soon, they said. DGCA's oversight on training schools and schedules would also be beefed up.

The FAA, which has over the years downgraded several nations including close ally Israel, Mexico, Venezuela and Philippines, uses 'downgrade' as more of a tool to pressurise countries to shape up their regulatory schemes but not as a warning of imminent safety problems, they said.

As per the norms of UN body International Convention on Civil Aviation (ICAO), each country is responsible for the safety oversight of its carriers. Other countries can only conduct specific surveillance activities, principally involving inspection of required documents and the physical condition of aircraft.

FAA conducts its International Aviation Safety Assessment Programme, assessing the civil aviation authority of each country that has airlines operating to the US. 

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