Wednesday, September 30, 2009

India remains at FAA Cat 1 status, can the CAAP get their act together?

India in compliance with United States FAA safety audit recommendations

Remains in Category 1 of IASA

According to a PIB release, India has been found to be fully compliant with the international safety standards by an audit done by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of the United States of America. Before permitting a foreign airline to operate in USA, FAA of US, backed by the US legislation conducts an audit of the concerned country’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA)/ DGCA to ensure its capability for providing safety certification and continuing oversight on its international carriers. The audit is conducted under an ‘International Aviation Safety Assessment Programme’ (IASA) and focuses on the country's ability to adhere to standards and recommended practices of International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) for aircraft operations and maintenance.

Under the IASA programme, FAA in the year 1997 had conducted an audit of DGCA India and had awarded Category 1 status to India. In March this year, FAA, based on the report of an audit conducted by ICAO in October 2006, conducted a reassessment of DGCA. While the FAA’s IASA team found India to be compliant in areas of aviation legislation, operating regulations, civil aviation structure and safety oversight functions, and licensing and certification obligations, it raised concerns in the areas of adequate technical guidance for DGCA inspectors, hiring and retaining technical personnel in DGCA, establishment of an on-going surveillance programme of air operators and the resolution of identified safety issues.

DGCA was required to rectify the concerns in the identified areas in a short time frame of about five months. Repercussions of non-action could have resulted in India being downgraded to Category 2 status from the Category 1, which has been held by India since 1997. Under Category 2, no expansion/ changes to the services of Indian air carriers would have been permitted by USA and the existing operations would have been subjected to ‘heightened FAA surveillance’. Such a downgrade would not only have resulted to an economic impact to the nation but would also have been a setback to India’s image worldwide in ICAO, EU, USA and in the international aviation community.

The FAA IASA team revisited DGCA yesterday to confirm and validate the action taken on the concerns since the audit in March 2009. The visit was also made to ascertain the information which was provided to FAA by DGCA from time to time in the previous few months on the progress made to make good the deficiencies. During the discussions, the FAA team confirmed the action taken by DGCA to make good the identified concerns of the earlier March 2009 audit.

• The team confirmed DGCA meeting the international standards in the area of aviation law and regulations and confirmed that the powers of Director General were well laid down in the various parts of the Aircraft Act, 1934 and Aircraft Rules, 1937 and the regulations were available to all users. In the area of CAA Structure and safety oversight functions, the team acknowledged that lack of financial resources is not a constraint for DGCA and that there has been an eight-fold increase in the annual budget for DGCA this year. In 2009-10, DGCA has 40 crore under plan and Rs 22 crore under non-plan. FAA was informed by DGCA that a feasibility study for establishment of Civil Aviation Authority has been commissioned and will commence in October 2009. The FAA team was shown the technical guidance, which was prepared in areas of operations, airworthiness and enforcement for the guidance and use of safety inspectors of DGCA for day-to-day functioning including the training provided to the inspectors on their use.

• The availability of an increased number of flight operations inspectors on board with DGCA which now includes 14 full time Government Flight Operations Inspectors (FOI) and 18 FOIs on secondment from industry was shown to the FAA team as against the previous of only four FOIs in March 2009. It was emphasised to the team that current increased salary levels based on the Sixth Pay Commission has increased the attractiveness of government positions and retention has improved.

Indian government has approved and revised about 560 technical positions and 150 non-technical positions in addition to existing 160 technical and 177 non-technical positions. Aggressive action plan for recruitment is underway. About 72 technical officers are being hired in September – October on short term contract. Higher level of financial delegation given to the DGCA by Government of India. DGCA has in turn delegated financial powers to regional offices. DGCA now has 13 directorates as against exiting nine. Four new directorates have been added. A DGCA wide internal and external training programme has been developed. Further, a big project of IT led solutions in DGCA is in advanced stage of action.

• DGCA India fulfils all international standards regarding Licensing and Certification Obligations.

• The DGCA-wide surveillance programme was shared with the team and it was emphasised that all airlines including foreign airlines are included in the surveillance programme which is under aggressive implementation. The programme of surveillance includes Indian registered as well as aircraft taken by Indian operators on wet lease. The current programme for 2009 includes 4,327 surveillance activities, of which 2,545 have been conducted till August 2009. The system for addressing deficiencies arising out of the surveillance was discussed. The team was informed of setting up of Surveillance and Enforcement Division (SMED) and the Board for Aviation Safety (BFAS) in headquarters for monthly monitoring of identified Level I deficiencies and progress of other deficiencies. Also 87 enforcement actions have been taken against personnel and operators. In addition to the surveillance programme, DGCA has put in a system of quality check of foreign flying training facilities used by Indian students for obtaining pilot licenses. DGCA officers recently conducted an inspection of foreign flying institute in Philippines in consultation with their civil aviation authority. A system of recently introduced financial surveillance of airlines was also discussed based on the current economic slowdown and consequent pressures on the airlines.

• The revised Schedule VI of the Aircraft Rules 1937 on Penalties was shared with the team where substantial increase in financial penalty for non-adherence to regulations has been addressed. DGCA Enforcement Policy and Procedures Manual were provided to the team which was issued on May 20, 2009 and effective from June 15, 2009. The Manual establishes and publicises internal deadlines for taking action, appeal actions, and monitoring compliance with enforcement decisions throughout the regions, and implements an effective internal staff process to ensure timely action. The DGCA Officers at headquarters and in the regions have been trained on the manual. Stakeholders are aware that they are subject to enforcement, and the programme constitutes an effective deterrent.

FAA team was satisfied with the amount of work accomplished by DGCA India. FAA stated that complete action and correction of concerns raised by FAA was done in the available time space which is considered rare in the history of IASA. FAA also acknowledged the commitment and support of Ministry of Civil Aviation and Government of India. Based on the discussions held and the information shared, FAA at the close of the discussion informed DGCA of being in compliance with international standards for aviation safety and reported India to continue to be maintained in Category 1. This determination will be made public under FAA public disclosure policy.

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