In dismal news for India’s aviation sector, United States’ aviation regulator has downgraded India’s safety ranking, bringing it below Pakistan, that will adversely affect flight operations to America.
India is now graded by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) along with countries like Ghana, Barbados and Bangladesh at Category 2. Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh expressed surprise and disappointment at the poor grading but promised corrective steps by March in order to get back to Category I.
Pakistan has maintained its Category 1 position.
In a statement, the government said the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) assessment of India on Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP) is much above the global average.
“We are now 95 per cent compliant” with what the FAA wanted, Singh said, adding that the remaining five per cent compliance in terms of recruitment and training of senior technical personnel in the DGCA would be completed by March. “DGCA will remain in constant touch with FAA, which will hopefully review afresh,” and revert India to Category I, Singh said.
Experts said the downgrading of safety ranking by FAA means India’s aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) does not meet the safety standards set by UN agency, ICAO.
That would effectively bar Air India and Jet Airways from increasing the number of flights to the US.
The passengers will now have to go through more safety checks on American soil. The FAA decision was conveyed to DGCA chief Prabhat Kumar.
The downgrade, however, does not mean that Indian airlines are unsafe. It means that DGCA’s is not adequately monitoring safety performance of Indian carriers.
While the action may not immediately impact the existing 28 flights a week norm (21 of Air India and 7 of Jet Airways) to the US, it would make it difficult for these carriers to expand their operations to other American cities.
Officials said this is the first time that India has been downgraded and it could take at least 6-8 months for course correction.