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April 10, 2015 T. Ramachandran
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The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has raised India's air safety rating from Category 2 to Category 1; but what does International Civil Aviation Organisation data reveal?

Photo: B. Velankanni Raj
Photo: B. Velankanni Raj

Oversight is a key word when it comes to air safety.

And the capability of the Indian civil aviation authorities to meet oversight requirements was called to question in January 2014, when the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) lowered India's rating from Category 1 to Category 2 under its International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) programme. And on Wednesday, the FAA elevated India to Category 1 again.

This followed a reassessment by FAA of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation's (DGCA) capabilities in certain areas, after the DGCA took steps to address the issues that the FAA had raised in connection with the downgrading earlier in 2014.

The FAA had lowered India's rating citing an audit by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) that had identified deficiencies in aviation safety oversight by the DGCA in December 2012. That prompted the FAA to reassess India’s compliance with ICAO standards under its IASA programme.

What did a category 2 rating imply? "A Category 2 rating means a country either lacks laws or regulations necessary to oversee air carriers in accordance with minimum international standards, or that its civil aviation authority – equivalent to the FAA for aviation safety matters – is deficient in one or more areas, such as technical expertise, trained personnel, record-keeping or inspection procedures."

And ICAO's audit data under its Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme shows that India has figures below the global average in two areas - Organisation, and Air Navigation Services (based on 2013 progress evaluation data). The effective implementation (EI) of each audit area is rated from 0 to 100 per cent in terms of implementation parameters.

India is ranked 55th among 185 countries in the overall EI scale. In comparison, China has a ranking of 28, Pakistan 37, Sri Lanka 24 and Bangladesh 145 among the neighbouring countries.

One issue was that the DGCA did not have enough flight inspectors; the FAA had lowered the rating even as the the government claimed that it had set in motion the process of appointing 75 flight operations inspectors of various grades.

The country then did not have a regular contingent of inspectors; in a statement issued around the time of the FAA downgrade the Civil Aviation Ministry said that commanders and pilots from different arline companies "were seconded to DGCA to carry out these functions." And it did admit to a probable conflict of interest as these commanders and pilots were paid by the respective airlines and not by the DGCA.

Another issue had to do with the training of Airworthiness Officers for different kind of planes owned by non-scheduled operators, which too has been addressed, the authorities say.

Now that the FAA's Category 1 rating has come, Indian airline companies will be able to add flights to the United States using their own aircraft and carry the code of U.S. carriers on their operations.

Keywords: air safetyIndiaICAOFAA

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