The US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) on Friday downgraded India’s aviation safety rating from top to second category, raising concerns over training, non-availability of adequate number of flight operation inspectors and other technical issues.
The downgrade means airlines in India can’t increase the number of flights they operate to the US or enter into new code-sharing arrangements with US carriers. Though it won’t hit current flights, Indian carriers will be subject to more rigorous safety checks at US airports. With the FAA move, India joins countries like Bangladesh, Ghana, St Maarten, Indonesia, Serbia and Curacao that have a Category 2 rating. Pakistan has maintained a Category 1 rating.
A Civil Aviation Ministry official said the FAA had in September-December 2013 audited aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). The FAA had raised 31 issues, including strengthening safety training programmes, offering better safety documentation and hiring full-time flight operation inspectors. The official said at least 29 findings have been completely addressed by the DGCA, while pending issues would hopefully be resolved by March. But the FAA in its note to the DGCA said “it has determined that India at this time is not in compliance with the international standards for aviation safety oversight”.
Commenting on the FAA directive, Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh said the decision was very disappointing and surprising since India was working to resolve all the concerns. “In our view, 95 per cent of all issues raised have been resolved. Only two areas are left which will be completed by March. The DGCA will get in touch with the FAA to get itself restored to Category 1 grade,” Ajit Singh said.
AI, JET Face Tough Checks
From now, Air India and Jet Airways flights will face more rigorous checks in the US. For that matter, the Indian airlines cannot increase number of flights or enter into code-sharing arrangements with US carriers.