With general aviation regulations in India caught up in a web of complex rules, the industry has expressed a need for a stable regulatory framework that would allow it to grow in a sound, more straightforward regulatory regime. Addressing this, an ICAO-led group drafted a set of recommendations for a policy on general aviation–including fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters and seaplanes–and submitted them to the Ministry of Civil Aviation in April 2012. While no action has been takenas a consequence of changes in leadership over the past few months, 2014 could bring in good tidings, Rohit Kapur, president, Business Aviation Operators Association (BAOA) told AIN.
In addition, hopes are high, he said, that a proposed regulatory body, a civil aviation authority replacing the existing Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). This is planned to be operational by 2015, will have financial and administrative autonomy, allowing it to be more effective in the development of general aviation.
Infrastructure constraints present a significant hurdle and it is clear that development of dedicated facilities for general aviation is not likely to be viable financially in the short or medium term. This is apparent in the lack of FBOs in the country and the suspension of any plans to build more. For example, Delhi International Airport’s “expression of interest” in attracting a fixed-base operator to develop a new full-service facility at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in partnership with a company selected through a competitive bid process, was issued and withdrawn twice. An industry insider told AIN that there are no plans to issue a bid in the near future because “business aviation does not make the airport money from parking fees, and the space occupied for aircraft could be used in a more lucrative manner.”
With Mumbai and Delhi airports congested, the ICAO-led group recommends that general aviation aircraft should be exempt from paying landing and parking charges at other airports. “Any tax on air transport should be fair, equitable, transparent and nondiscriminatory in its intent, and its application vis-à-vis other modes of transport,” say the recommendations.
The report also indicates a major concern to operators is a DGCA circular that mandates the installation of a cockpit voice recorder (CVR) and a flight data recorder (FDR) in twin-engine aircraft weighing less than 5,700 kg. BAOA has warned that the high cost of installation and certification may result in the sale of many aircraft as they are rendered uneconomic.
Dhiraj Chhabra, associate vice president for sales and marketing with Air Works India Engineering, said the regulator should focus this year to ensure general aviation maintenance providers are given “access to hangars and infrastructure at airports and recognize them as providers of critical services to keep aircraft airworthy.” While the number of aircraft has grown in recent years, except for two hangars built by GMR in Hyderabad and Air Works in Hosur near Bangalore, the Airports Authority of India has not built a single hangar in the past two decades, creating real scarcity.
Discrepancies and lack of consistency in the DGCA are apparent, according to the report. For example, two CTLS microlights for training have been grounded since November 2011 after permission was withdrawn when it was realized the type certificate did not cover training. “There is [now] a comprehensive proposal to amend rules to allow the light sport aircraft [LSA] category. Until then, the ministry is likely to permit inclusion of LSA in the microlight category,” said a DGCA official.
With the majority of owners in India operating fewer than three aircraft, the BAOA has called for private aircraft owners to be allowed to put their aircraft under the management of another entity. “They should also be allowed to put their aircraft under the management of an AOP [air operators permit] holder to enable them to generate revenues when the private aircraft is not used by the owner. This will bring in efficiencies and enhance safety,” said Kapur.