With the country getting its highest-ever rank in the ICAO aviation safety rankings, DGCA chief Arun Kumar on Sunday said the challenge now is to maintain and further improve the air safety ecosystem.
The comments also come against the backdrop of the country's aviation sector slowly coming back into the growth trajectory after being severely hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the domestic air traffic is also inching towards the pre-pandemic level.
In the latest rankings by the Indian Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), India's position has jumped to the 48th place from the 102nd spot in 2018. The ranking, which also places it ahead of China (49), is the highest ever received by India, according to DGCA officials.
“A robust safety oversight system certified and acknowledged by the experts is sine qua non for flight safety and very assuring for the flying public... The DGCA team has worked tirelessly to strengthen aviation safety. Now, we are on a peak and so the challenge is to maintain and improve further,” DGCA chief Arun Kumar said on Sunday.
A formal communication from the ICAO about India's ranking is expected in the coming weeks. The rankings are for 187 countries and assessments were done at different points of time. Under its Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP) Continuous Monitoring Approach, an ICAO Coordinated Validation Mission (ICVM) was undertaken from November 9 to 16.
With a score of 85.49% each, India and Georgia are at the 48th position. Neighbouring Pakistan's score is 70.39%. The rankings are topped by Singapore with a score of 99.69%. It is followed by the UAE at the second position with a score of 98.8% and the Republic of Korea is at the third place (98.24%).
Others in the top ten are France (4th; 96.42%), Iceland (5th; 95.73%), Australia (6th; 95.04%), Canada (7th; 94.95%), Brazil (8th; 94.72%), Ireland (9th; 94.6%) and Chile (10th; 93.9%), as per the DGCA officials.
In the mission done last month in India, the Effective Implementation (EI) of six areas were assessed. They are LEG, ORG, PEL, OPS, AIR and AGA. LEG is Primary Aviation Legislation and Specific Operating Regulations; ORG is Civil Aviation Organisation; PEL is Personnel Licensing and Training; OPS is Aircraft Operations; AIR is Airworthiness of Aircraft; and AGA is Aerodrome and Ground Aid.
So far for India, the ICAO has done the Coordinated Validated Mission four times, including the last one in November this year.
It did the mission in December 2012 that covered all the areas and the EI score rose from 79.84% to 81.32%. The mission was next conducted in August 2013 that looked at two areas – OPS and AIR. At that time, the score improved from 79.73% to 81.19%.
Another mission was done in November 2018. It covered LEG, ORG, AIG, ANS and AGA. During that time, the EI score declined from 71.86% to 69.95%. AIG is Aircraft Accident and Incident Investigation; ANS is Air Navigation Services.
The ICAO looks at eight critical elements of the safety oversight system, including primary aviation legislation, specific operating regulations, resolution of safety issues and surveillance obligations.
In July, against the backdrop of various technical snags faced by domestic airlines, the DGCA chief had said they did not have the potential to cause havoc and that the country’s civil aviation space was “absolutely safe” and all the protocols laid down by the ICAO were followed.