No speech or article about Indian civil aviation is complete these days without the claim that “India will be the third largest civil aviation market globally in the next decade or so”. But apparently to the Indian establishment which continues to overlook the pitfalls that confront civil aviation. Unless there is a fundamental change of approach, Indian Civil Aviation is set to plateau out much before it reaches the currently projected podium position.
The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), the UN body keeping watch on air safety, had planned to audit Indian Civil Aviation in March this year, but the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) requested that the audit be deferred to November. The request is innocuous, but raises some disconcerting questions about India’s past performance in audits (and the possible outcome of this one).
India was first audited by ICAO under its Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USAOP) in 2006, followed by an ICAO Coordinated Validation Mission, which falls short of an audit, in 2012, after which India was placed very near the foot of a list of nations audited. This was followed by a full-fledged audit in November-December 2015, which found that India performed below the global average in legislation, organisation, accident investigation and aerodromes, while faring better than the global average in licensing, operations, airworthiness and air navigation.