DGCA working on FAA recommendations

The FAA is scheduled to give its final report on its December audit in a couple of weeks, the sources said.

New Delhi: Aviation regulator DGCA is working on the observations and suggestions made by its US counterpart FAA during its recent safety audit but needs six more months to fully comply with all the recommendations, official sources said Wednesday.

Among concerns raised by Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) over 33 issues are filling up of several senior positions including those of full-time Flight Operations Inspectors (FOIs), beefing up of aviation safety training programmes and lack of manuals and documentation on certain safety issues.

The FAA is scheduled to give its final report on its December audit in a couple of weeks, the sources said. On the basis of this report after a two-day compliance audit, FAA would decide whether to downgrade India's aviation safety status or maintain it on the top Category-I.

Of the 33 deficiencies, corrective measures were taken on 26 issues which were deemed as closed. Of the remaining seven, the status was of work-in-progress, the sources said.

A three-member technical team of the FAA had carried out the second round of audit of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) in December to check the status of corrective steps recommended in the first round in September to resolve the 33 deficiencies highlighted by the US agency.

While the FAA was "satisfied" with the safety training programmes meant for all airline staffers, it had raised concerns over lack of proving flights of the new aircraft used by private operators, the Boeing 787 Dreamliners. It also wanted 'table-top' exercises for the long-haul Boeing 777s for safety operations in-flight and on ground, the sources said.

"There were these concerns and we have sought about six months to resolve all of them. We are hopeful that they will give us more time as we are working on a plan to address them," a source said.

DGCA is now in the process of hiring 20 full-time FOIs and 45 more would be recruited over a period of time, they said.

The FOIs are senior pilots who would be taken on contract and paid salaries consistent with the industry norms that could be higher than that of the DGCA chief himself. An estimated Rs 40 crore would be needed annually for this purpose.

Similarly, training for new types of aircraft would also be required to be imparted to pilots and cabin crew and it would be the operators' responsibility to foot the bill, they said. DGCA's oversight on training schools and schedules would also be beefed up.

A downgrade from DGCA's current top Category I to probably Category II would imply that Air India and Jet Airways, which now fly to the US, would be allowed to operate only the existing number of flights, but not enhance them.

They would not be able to expand or enter into any more code share arrangements with any American carrier. Safety supervision on air traffic and the activity of the Indian airlines in the US would also be heightened.

A downgrade would definitely not mean that Air India or Jet were unsafe as the audit does not say anything on any individual airline's safety practices, the sources said.

It would only mean that government's safety oversight may not be enough to properly monitor safety performance of the Indian airlines, they added.

The FAA, which has over the years downgraded several nations including close ally Israel, Mexico, Venezuela and Philippines, uses 'downgrade' as more of a tool to pressurise countries to shape up their regulatory schemes but not as a warning of imminent safety problems, they said.