US team to visit India to audit aviation safety mechanism

Written by PTI | New Delhi | Updated: Nov 2 2014, 16:46pm hrs
AviationThe audit is likely to go on for about a week.
A US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) team would arrive here next month to carry out a fresh audit of India's aviation safety mechanism, which was downgraded almost a year ago, rekindling hopes of its restoration to the topmost category status.

Official sources said that FAA has decided to start a fresh audit of safety standards from December 8 and will review the work done by its Indian counterpart, Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), to resolve the problems. The audit is likely to go on for about a week.

The American regulator had downgraded India from Category I to Category II under its International Aviation Safety Assessment programme, after its audits in India revealed deficiencies on over 30 crucial issues relating to various aspects of safety standards, including shortage of officials to carry out engineering and flight checks.

After the January 31 downgrade, DGCA had sought a fresh audit of its safety oversight mechanism in July after taking a number of steps to meet the deficiencies.

It has put in place a series of new rules and procedures and recruited skilled manpower to carry out aviation safety surveillance.

Following this, DGCA chief Prabhat Kumar visited the US and briefed FAA on the progress made for resolving the problems identified.

As a fallout of the FAA downgrade, the European Union Air Safety Committee (EUASC) had also expressed some concerns although it did not take any punitive action.

To update them about the developments since the January FAA action and the steps taken, a four-member DGCA team led by Joint Director General J S Rawat would visit Brussels next week to hold discussions.

Operations by Indian air carriers to and from Europe are monitored by EUASC through their Safety Assessment of Foreign Aircraft programme.

Among the steps DGCA has taken are the recruitment of 56 new Flight Operations Inspectors out of a total of 75 that are required, with most of them joining their duties this month itself. The remaining ones, too, would be inducted this month, the sources said.

The downgrade not only barred Air India and Jet Airways the only two Indian airlines that operate to the US from expanding their operations in that country and their codeshare arrangements with US airlines, but also subjected their planes to additional checks at US airports.

FAA's Category-II rating put India in a group of 16 such countries, including Bangladesh, Ghana, Indonesia, the Philippines and Nicaragua.

The sword of downgrade had been hanging over DGCA since 2009, when FAA had expressed serious concern over gross under- staffing. Immediately thereafter, several remedial measures were implemented and the Union Cabinet had decided to recruit over 500 additional staff for the regulator.