India Approves Flexible Use of Airspace

 - March 25, 2013, 11:30 AM
A new agreement on more flexible use of Indian airspace by civil aircraft operators could boost operational efficiency and flexibility for local carriers such as Jet Airways. (Photo: Airbus)

As India’s air traffic grows and skies get crowded, the country’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) and Ministry of Civil Aviation have finally reached an agreement on a long-standing demand for flexible use of airspace (FUA). The implementation will stand “subject to ensuring adequate safeguards in the system to prevent inadvertent leaks of military information and dissemination of any information on military aviation activities strictly on a ‘need to know’ basis,” noted a government statement. The military currently controls approximately 65 percent of India’s airspace.

Plans call for a National High Level Airspace Policy Board–consisting of stakeholders the MoD, Indian Air Force, Ministry of Civil Aviation, Directorate General of Civil Aviation, Airports Authority of India and Indian Space Research Organization–to establish procedures for allocation of airspace.

FUA allows both military and civil users to share airspace effectively by directing routings between seven city pairs, including the congested Delhi-Mumbai sectors. Proponents expect the plan to result in enhanced capacity and fuel savings. “It is time the government relooks at some of the archaic laws. Technology has changed so much in the past few decades,” said an airline official who spoke with AIN on condition of anonymity.

While the U.S. has used FUA for decades, the close proximity of hostile neighbors to India has complicated airspace reform in the subcontinent, noted DGCA director Arun Mishra. “We recognize defense takes precedence over everything else…an impact of FUA in the future for us [will be] unmanned aircraft systems [UAS],” Mishra said while addressing a seminar organized by the Foundation for Aviation and Sustainable Tourism.

Former Air Chief Marshal S. Krishnaswamy summed up the challenge. “Military and civil are like oil and water. We can’t mix. But we can work together,” he said.