India’s Category I reinstatement was conditioned–what do the four “deficiencies” indicate about its aviation safety?

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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.

Why did the FAA take this extraordinary (unique?) step to increase the rating now, but pose the “threat” of a later reverter to Category 2 if the foreign government does not presently meet four found deficiencies?

India is the second most populous country in the world (1.2 billion) and it is seventh-largest by nominal GDP and third-largest by purchasing power parity. Its economy is growing dynamically. The President of the United States recently visited this country for its national holiday. The President of Airbus also made a visit and announced to India’s Prime Minister Modi that the multi-national manufacturer would devote $2 billion to his “Make in India” program.

What are the four conditions? As reported, they are:

· “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) and”

· “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.

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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