New Delhi: Under pressure to avoid a downgrade by US aviation regulator FAA, government has approved creation of 75 crucial posts in DGCA to carry out safety inspection of airlines and private charter companies.
All these positions, like Chief Flight Operation Inspector (FOIs), Deputy and Senior FOIs, would be created in the Flight Standards Directorate (FSD) of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).
The 75 posts have been created on the basis of International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) standards meant for aircraft and helicopter operations, an official spokesperson said, adding it has also been decided to pay salaries to the new recruits as per industry standards to attract talent.
Among the concerns raised by Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) over 33 issues were filling up of several senior positions including those of full-time FOIs, beefing up of aviation safety training programmes and preparation of manuals and documentation on safety issues.
The FAA could downgrade DGCA on aviation safety count -- from the top Category I to a lower ranking, if the concerns raised by it were not addressed.
The FAA is scheduled to give its final report any time now on the audits it carried out in September and December, official sources said. On the basis of this report, FAA would decide whether to downgrade India's aviation safety status or retain it on the top-most category.
The FS Division of DGCA carries out, among other things, safety oversight functions, training programmes of airlines, standardization of trainee of captains, airline certification, examination of operational documents and other examinations.
The FOIs carry out surveillance checks involving cockpit en-route inspections, cabin inspections, ramp inspections, station facility inspections, proficiency checks, simulator evaluation and main base inspections.
Till now, DGCA did not have any regular FOIs. So pilots and commanders were seconded from scheduled airlines to carry out these functions. These commanders and pilots were paid by the respective airlines and not by the DGCA.
Due to such a practice, there were possibilities of conflict of interest, a factor which was pointed out by FAA. During its two audits last year, DGCA addressed 29 of the 33 findings pointed out by FAA.
Recruitment of FOIs was one of two issues remaining which has now been partially addressed, the spokesperson said, adding that recruitment process is likely to start next month and training of the fresh recruits completed by March end.
DGCA has already appointed 18 Chief Flight Operation Inspectors and FOIs on contract and is paying them the same salaries as they were getting in their respective airlines.
The government was also in the final stage of creation of the Civil Aviation Authority to replace DGCA, with the Bill pending in the Parliament for adoption. The Civil Aviation Ministry is making all efforts to ensure that the Bill is passed in the coming session of Parliament.
A downgrade of DGCA by FAA would imply that Air India and Jet Airways, which currently fly to the US, would be allowed to operate only the existing number of flights, but not enhance them. They would also not be able to expand or enter into any new codeshare arrangements with any American carrier.
Safety supervision on air traffic and the activity of the Indian airlines in the US would also be heightened.
However, such 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. It only implies that DGCA's safety oversight may not be enough to properly monitor safety performance of the Indian airlines.
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.
First Published: Wednesday, January 29, 2014, 17:05