Independent body to deal with aviation safety

The passenger handling capacity of Indian airports, which was just 66 million in 2005, has reached 225 million.

Updated: Oct 30, 2011, 10:17 AM IST

New Delhi: In order to ensure better regulation over aviation safety and security, an independent Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is on the anvil with the Civil
Aviation Ministry finalising a draft legislation on the issue.

Once the draft is finalised, it would be circulated to other ministries for their inputs before it is placed before the Union Cabinet for approval. However, this process would take some time, official sources said.

The proposed CAA would have financial and administrative autonomy to take expeditious decisions on matters relating to a range of activities -- from regulation of air traffic services and licensing to ensure financial fitness of
airlines, they said.

The CAA would come up at a time when the total number of
planes in the country is about 440 and is estimated to cross
1,000 in a few years. In addition, over 200 helicopters and
private jets are also flying in the country.

The passenger handling capacity of Indian airports, which
was just 66 million in 2005, has reached 225 million now and
is expected to cross 500 million in the next 10 years.

In this backdrop, the CAA would take over the
responsibilities of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation
(DGCA) like air safety, airspace regulation, setting aviation
standards, licensing of airlines, pilots, air traffic
controllers and engineers, besides consumer protection.

The ministry is also proposing to provide certain
economic regulatory functions to the new authority, including
airfares and areas like consumer protection, environmental
research and consultancy.

The CAA is also likely to decide on ground handling and
other charges which airlines have to pay to airport operators.
It is likely to act as an ombudsman to deal with complaints
against airlines, airports and other agencies.

With its proposed autonomy, CAA would be able to recruit
professionals directly for a variety of jobs, instead of
routing it through the UPSC as it does now, they said, adding
that about 400 technical positions in DGCA were lying vacant

The CAA would also conduct periodic safety and security
audits, including flight inspections of agencies, to ensure
that the prescribed local and global standards are being met.

The authority would have powers to take preventive,
corrective and punitive action against agencies and staff for
violation of rules and regulations and to ensure ethical trade
practices, the sources said.

While preparing the draft legislation, the Ministry
studied the aviation regulatory systems in many countries and
decided to follow the British Civil Aviation Authority model.

Such aviation regulatory body exist in several countries
like the US, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Pakistan, which are
empowered to regulate all safety issues, advising the
government on all civil aviation matters, managing national
airspace so as to meet the needs of all users, keeping in mind
national security, economic and environmental factors.

A feasibility study to set up the CAA was commissioned in
October 2009 in technical cooperation with the UN body
International Civil Aviation Organisation to improve financial
and administrative autonomy for discharge of safety oversight
functions more effectively.

The ICAO study was reviewed by the DGCA and the Civil
Aviation Ministry last year and the proposal was also endorsed
by the US Federal Aviation Administration which said the body
being proposed would be in line with ICAO guidelines.