Fearing a downgrade by the US aviation regulator, Federal Aviation Authority (FAA), the Civil Aviation Ministry on Wednesday announced approval for creation of 75 crucial posts in Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to carry out safety inspection of airlines and private charter companies.

The new positions like Chief Flight Operation Inspector (FOIs), Deputy and Senior FOIs, would be created in the Flight Standards Directorate (FSD) of DGCA. The 75 posts have been created on the basis of International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) standards meant for aircraft and helicopter operations, an official spokesman said in New Delhi.

During its inspection last year, the FAA had raised concerns over 33 issues including filling up of several senior positions including those of full-time FOIs, beefing up of aviation safety training programmes and preparation of manuals and documentation on safety issues.

The FAA could downgrade DGCA on aviation safety count - from the top category I to a lower ranking, if the concerns raised by it are not addressed. It is scheduled to give its final report any time now on the audits it carried out in September and December.

On the basis of this report, FAA would decide whether to downgrade India's aviation safety status or retain it on the top-most category. A downgrade by FAA would imply that Air India and Jet Airways, which currently fly to the US, would be allowed to operate only the existing number of flights but not enhance them. They would also not be able to expand or enter into any new code share arrangements with any US carrier.

Safety supervision on air traffic and the activity of the Indian airlines in the US would also be heightened.

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.

Basically, the FOIs carry out surveillance checks involving cockpit en-route inspections, cabin inspections, ramp inspections, station facility inspections, proficiency checks, simulator evaluation and main base inspections.

Till now, DGCA did not have any regular FOIs. So pilots and commanders were seconded from scheduled airlines to carry out these functions. These commanders and pilots were paid by the respective airlines and not by the DGCA.

The spokesman said the government was also in the final stage of creation of the Civil Aviation Authority to replace DGCA, with the Bill pending in the Parliament for adoption. The Civil Aviation Ministry is making all efforts to ensure that the Bill is passed in the coming session of Parliament.

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