Conditional Category 1 Questions Remain
Delhi High Court asks Same Major Questions
In the context of several highly critical newspaper stories alleging problems within the Indian CAA, the ** article headline that the FAA is coming “to audit the Indian Directorate General” and the text describing the upcoming visit seem unduly optimistic:
“The regulatory oversight of Indian aviation has been under constant observation of leading international agencies. FAA, Federal Aviation Administration is going to audit the DGCA, Directorate General of Civil Aviation for the third time since 2013.
This is going to occur after the audit done by ICAO, International Civil Aviation Organisation last November A senior DGCA officer stated that it is only a routine check that the FAA wishes to do and also that the FAA conducting an audit soon after ICAO is mere coincidence, considering the fact there were no safety issues found during the ICAO audit.
The most recent ICAO audit recommended, that air navigation services should come under a different regulatory agency.
The fact that the FAA audit is to take place in a month or two might be a little risky, considering the fact the DGCA is currently engaged in making the changes recommended by the IACO[sic].”
- the HANS INDIA writer or the DGCA senior official has received assurances that differ from the past two years of dialogue with the FAA
- that the communications between the two sovereigns have been misinterpreted (having participated in such negotiations that is quite possible; diplomat speak and technical speak do not translate well),
but the visible, reported record of the three-year review of, granting of and conditions of India’s much prized Category I status is not as positive:
– Air India Is Coming To Washington; Before The 1st Flight Maybe FAA Inspectors Should Go To New Delhi
– India’s Category I Reinstatement Was Conditioned–What Do The Four “Deficiencies” Indicate About Its Aviation Safety?
– Indian DGCA’s Audit Shows The Technical Aviation Safety Competence Needed For International Acceptance
The constant theme of these articles about this history is that the FAA has four major concerns about deficient technical competences within the Indian safety organization–
Almost three years ago, with great fanfare, Secretary Foxx announced that the DGCA of India had been upgraded to Category 1 (meets ICAO standards) after a long FAA International Aviation Safety Assessment review. Soon thereafter, it has been reported that the FAA’s “approval” was conditioned by four points with which the DGCA must comply (see below) sometime in the undefined future. The deficiencies were identified as follows:
- “The local aviation regulator would have to hire a total of 72 flight operations inspectors (FOIs),
- recertify all scheduled airlines,
- recertify all non-scheduled operators (NSOPs)
- recertify all flying training organisations to retain the top ranking.
Those are not inconsequential regulatory actions and before they are completed, these signify that the FAA has concerns about the competence of all of those airlines and organizations. The lack of adequate staffing certainly strongly suggests that the past safety inspections have not been adequate; the DGCA Directorate listing shows about 50 individuals with the title Senior Flight Operation Inspectors or Flight Operation Inspectors. The requirement that the FOI roster should be increased by 125% is not a vote of confidence.
One might assume that Director General, B.S. Bhullar, has rectified these failings; that he had hired the requisite number of inspectors, for example.
The Delhi High Court, likely having greater knowledge of how the DGCA is doing, took this extraordinary action:
“A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar asked for the information after the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) claimed that it has been following all precautions to ensure flight safety in the country.
With the direction, the court listed the matter for further hearing on August 2.
The court was hearing a PIL alleging that private airlines are violating and circumventing mandatory provisions for air safety
and airworthiness issued by the DGCA.
The plea has also claimed that the regulator has no mechanism to effectively check the non-compliance and blatant violation of
Refuting the allegations made in the public interest litigation, the DGCA said that it has safety oversight and surveillance programmes for airworthiness management and aircraft maintenance.It told the court that all of the civil aviation planes in operation in the country are following the aircraft maintenance programme.
The regulator also claimed that there are [sic] no shortage of flight operation inspectors.
However, the petitioner, Alok Kumar, has claimed that there are 72 vacant posts of flight operation inspectors in the DGCA.”
The three articles asking significant inquiries, as to the DGCA’s review of Air Asia and Air India PLUS the points raised by the Delhi High Court should capture the attention of the FAA inspectors. Because Secretary Foxx’s announced the granting of India’s Category 1 status, Air India added flights between Delhi and Washington. If a new audit lowers the rating to Category 2, those flights may remain at their current level, but no Indian carrier may add schedules until the superior category is restored.
 December 6,2016, B.S. Bhullar, a 1986-batch IAS officer of UP cadre, was been appointed chief of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation. His predecessor, M. Sathiavathy, resigned in July and Bhullar has been acting as Director since then.
 Seven countries are listed as Category 2 under IASA. Their airlines and economies suffer by that designation. However, one of the purposes of IASA is to protect US and international passengers from substandard safety standards. The announcement that India’s DGCA meets that standard becomes somewhat questionable by the establishment of four important steps with which the DGCA must comply. Should a passenger be 1000% confidant when flying on one of the carriers which have yet to be recertified?
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