The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has restored India’s aviation safety ranking to Category 1 under its International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) program. U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx made the announcement on Wednesday during a meeting with India’s Minister of Civil Aviation Ashok Gajapathi Raju.
After 14 months of enduring Category 2 restrictions, India now complies with international safety standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Foxx commended the government of India “for taking corrective action to address the safety oversight issues identified during the IASA process.” The major hurdle faced by Indian regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) centered on hiring additional flight-safety inspectors due to bureaucratic norms in hiring.
The restrictions barred Indian carriers from establishing new service to the U.S. using their own aircraft and from operating code-shares with U.S. carriers. Only two Indian carriers fly to the U.S. Jet Airways offers flights to the U.S. primarily through its partner Etihad Airways. Air India, which felt the most severe effects despite joining the Star Alliance, could not code share with partner U.S. carriers.
While Indian carriers did not suffer a financial loss during the downgrade period, the FAA decision has helped restore confidence and the “feel-good factor,” according to Vishok Mansingh, CEO of Mumbai-based consultancy Civil Aviation Ventures. He added the downgrade had not affected leasing activity. “No lessor has denied aircraft to airlines because of the downgrade,” he said.
Given the significant growth expected in Indian aviation and the safety challenges that will follow, the country will need to continue to improve its processes and oversight, cautioned Amber Dubey, partner and India head of aerospace at global consultancy KPMG.
“DGCA needs continuous improvement in its systems, processes, manpower, training and transparency,” he said. “Its financial and operational independence has to be enhanced. It has to improve its transparency and ease of doing business with industry.”
“Now that DGCA has followed the standards in letter, it must continue to follow it in spirit,” concluded Mansingh.