Measures taken to resolve deficiencies: Civil Aviation Ministry
With the threat of a safety downgrade by US aviation regulator FAA looming large, Civil Aviation Ministry officials on Wednesday exuded confidence that such an eventuality was not likely to arise.
New Delhi: With the threat of a safety downgrade by US aviation regulator FAA looming large, Civil Aviation Ministry officials on Wednesday exuded confidence that such an eventuality was not likely to arise as corrective measures have already been initiated by the DGCA.
The officials expressed confidence as a technical team of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) began the second round of safety compliance audit of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to check whether corrective steps have been taken to resolve 33 deficiencies the US agency had pointed out during the first round in September.
FAA`s first round of audit had followed a similar exercise by the UN-body International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
Among the areas of concern raised by FAA included existence of large number of vacancies in top technical posts like those of Joint Directors General and Deputy Directors General, at a time when air traffic in India was growing at a rapid pace. DGCA had 421 employees till July as against a sanctioned staff strength of 574.
FAA had also adversely commented on the conduct of the regular training programmes, including those for pilots, engineers and cabin crew, besides lack of manuals and documentation on certain important safety issues.
After a real-time audit at some airports, the FAA had noted certain faults in the implementation of safety norms by a couple of airlines and non-scheduled operators.
Ministry officials said they would try to ensure that a downgrade does not happen as they listed a series of measures taken by the DGCA already, like filling up of senior-level vacancies and amending civil aviation rules and regulations to strengthen safety.
Terming the audit as a "very pragmatic, problem-solving approach", the officials said "in September, the FAA had made certain observations. It wanted some corrective action taken on wide-body operations and training issues. Consultations have to be carried out on these two issues as per ICAO norms".
A downgrade from the present top Category I to probably Category II, would imply that Air India and Jet Airways, which currently fly to the US, would be allowed to operate the existing flights only, but not enhance them or enter into any further code share arrangements with any American carrier.
Supervision on air traffic and the activity of Indian airlines in the US would also be increased. The sources said a downgrade would "definitely not mean that Air India and Jet are unsafe as it does not say anything on any individual airline`s safety practices". It would imply that the government`s safety oversight may not be enough to properly monitor individual airline safety performance.
A downgrade would, however, impact Air India in particular as it was considering expanding flights to North America, apart from other regions, with its newly-acquired Boeing 787 Dreamliners as part of its turnaround plan.
The FAA, which has over the years downgraded several nations including close ally Israel, Mexico, Venezuela and Philippines, uses the `downgrade` as more of a tool to put pressure on countries to shape up their regulatory schemes and not as a warning of imminent safety problems, they said.