Indian Air Transport Under Scrutiny by U.S. FAA

 - July 8, 2013, 12:10 PM
Recent safety lapses on the part of Air India crew have raised new questions about India’s air transport oversight. (Photo: Boeing)

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has informed India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) that it will conduct an independent safety audit of air transport oversight on the subcontinent in August. India has asked for an extension of the date.

The notice follows a report published in March by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) that identified significant safety concerns overlooked by India while overseeing its airlines (air operators, charters and general aviation).

Nine months ago the FAA indicated that if it found failures in DGCA oversight, it would start the necessary consultation process for an international aviation safety assessment of the DGCA. However, the matter appeared resolved following bilateral talks between the FAA and DGCA.

In October 2006, an ICAO safety audit of India resulted in 70 findings and recommendations related primarily to a lack of an adequately structured civil aviation organization, shortage of trained technical manpower–especially in the areas of flight operations, air navigation services and aerodromes–and an ineffective mechanism to resolve safety concerns. ICAO also noted that the DGCA classified some serious aircraft accidents as incidents.

India’s prescribed safety regulations lack consistency and reflect “attitudinal problems,” aviation consultant Jitender Bhargava told AIN. “In the absence of any other mechanism to hold the regulatory agency accountable, external audits should be welcomed until we can affirm confidently our systems are in order and are being consistently followed,” he added.

Recent incidents, including the emergency landing of an Air India jetliner after its pilot locked himself out of the cockpit, “have created a bad impression,” said a ministry of civil aviation official on condition of anonymity. In another high-profile case, an Air India cabin crew kept watch over the cockpit while its pilots napped in business class during a scheduled flight.

Plans call for the FAA’s review to start with an analysis of DGCA manpower needs to cope with increasing air traffic and the rise of airline start-ups. Domestic airline traffic rose 4.8 percent in May year-over-year, from 5.4 million to 5.7 million passengers.