The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) downgraded Indias aviation safety rating for the first time to Category 2 due to the inability of the DGCA to meet the minimum mandated safety requirements within the stipulated time-frame. One of the main reasons for the downgrade was that FAA thought that DGCA didn't have enough trained manpower to regulate the Indian civil aviation sector, the official said.
The decision was unexpected as the last meeting we had with them (FAA), we thought they were happy with our staff strength as we were able to show them that concrete efforts were being made from our side to fill vacancies, he said.
They haven't asked us to fill a certain number of vacancies but instead told us to ensure that we have enough officers to oversee the activity in the aviation sector and do regulatory orders in better way.
FE had previously reported that an FAA safety audit team on a visit in September had raised 31 issues with the DGCA's oversight mechanism. Of these, 24 issues had been reportedly addressed and seven were unresolved by the time a second FAA delegation paid a visit in December. As of January, two of the 31 issues highlighted by FAA were were yet to be addressed. The first pertained to the appointment of new flight operations inspectors, for which the Cabinet approved the creation of 75 posts on January 29 with pay equal to industry standards. The second issue pertains to training of an adequate number of airworthiness officers for new aircraft.
We were surprised because all except two of the remaining seven issues have been resolved. They should have given their judgment only after taking into account our recent moves. According to them, we have completed 75% of the requirement. In my view, we are at 95% today, civil aviation minister Ajit Singh said at a press conference after the downgrade.
The DGCA official added that in the case of the hiring of senior flight operations inspectors, offer letters had been sent to 10 people.
According to a recent Center for Aviation (CAPA) report, the DGCA in 2009 estimated that it required 928 positions to adequately oversee the level of activity in the sector compared with its actual workforce of 400. Of this shortfall, a critical 427 vacancies were for A grade officers.
The shortage was particularly acute in the directorates of air worthiness, flight standards and air safety where there were just 79 A grade directors and officers despite a sanctioned strength of 330. However, most of the 528 additional positions created remain vacant, the CAPA report said, adding, since 2009, the DGCA has recruited just 67 full-time employees and 62 consultants and seconders.'
A DGCA official added: We are currently trying to up our recruitment drive but then any officer recruited in the technical areas has to be through the UPSC selection criteria. This takes time.