Airlines redraft flight plans after US’ FAA restores safety rating

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New Delhi | Updated: April 9, 2015 5:20:33 AM

Nearly 14 months after India’s aviation safety rating was downgraded by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the US aviation watchdog on Wednesday...

India aviation safety, aviation safety, Federal Aviation Administration, US aviation, India, PakistanNearly 14 months after India’s aviation safety rating was downgraded by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the US aviation watchdog on Wednesday restored the country’s ranking to Category 1 status. (PTI)

Nearly 14 months after India’s aviation safety rating was downgraded by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the US aviation watchdog on Wednesday restored the country’s ranking to Category 1 status. Apart from boosting sentiment — the downgrade meant India ranked lower than Pakistan and was clubbed with countries like Zimbabwe and Paraguay — the upgrade will allow domestic carriers to expand flights to the US.

The US transportation secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement that India complies with international safety standards and has been granted a Category 1 rating by the regulator. “The United States Government commends the Government of India for taking corrective action to address the safety oversight issues identified during the IASA (International Aviation Safety Assessment) process,” Foxx said in the statement.

The safety downgrade had taken place in January 2014 mainly because India did not have enough flight operations inspectors (FOIs) and airworthiness officers. The immediate impact of the downgrade to Category 2 meant that only existing flights to the US could continue and no expansion could take place. Further, at any point of time Indian flights could face random checks by US authorities.

India aviation safety, aviation safety, Federal Aviation Administration, US aviation, India, Pakistan

An added apprehension was that taking a cue from the US, other nations like Japan or the European Union could effect a similar downgrade. However, with Wednesday’s decision, any adverse impact can be ruled out.

The US aviation watchdog’s dissatisfaction with India’s aviation safety record began around September 2013 when it found insufficient FOIs and and airworthiness officers along with some 30 other deficiencies. While in the next few months the Indian aviation regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), had fixed most of the problems, it failed on the FOI and airworthiness officers front, which led to the downgrade in January 2014.

DGCA has since then been trying to fix the problem and even worked with US consultant Wicks Group to address the issues. Though no number was given, the aim was to have one FOI for every 10 aircraft. Since India has around 750 aircraft, the government had authorised the hiring of 75 FOIs on market salary. The problem with the earlier FOIs was also that quite a few of them were on deputation from the airlines, so a conflict of interest was seen.

“I enjoyed a very productive series of meetings with civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju today. I want to congratulate India on achieving Category 1 status in their civil aviation system,” Foxx told reporters after the meeting. “This is a big news, because India has worked very hard over the last one year to achieve that status,” he said.

“We are happy about restoration of status. It speaks well about our aviation safety and security and that we have come up to ICAO standards. It generates opportunities for our airlines and we hope they will harness them,” Raju said. He said the DGCA now needs to continuously work to and keep those standards.

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