audit, DGCA, FAA, ICAO, Regulations

US aviation body to audit DGCA third time since 2013

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NEW DELHI: The regulatory oversight of Indian aviation seems to be constantly under the scanner of leading International agencies. America’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is going to audit the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) for the third time since 2013. And the latest FAA audit comes soon after the Indian regulator underwent an audit by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) last November.

Confirming the FAA move, a senior DGCA official said: “It is a routine verification which FAA wishes to do. The fact that it is coming immediately after ICAO’s regular audit is a matter of comfort because ICAO audit has not thrown up any safety issue whatsoever. We would have preferred FAA to come a little later because of various other pressing administrative initiatives with which DGCA is currently engaged (such as e-GCA or making available most services of the regulator online). However, we will work out a mutually convenient time for FAA’s verification process.”

While FAA reportedly wants to come in a month or two, the Indian agency is learnt to be in favour of deferring the visit for some time as it is still implementing some changes recommended by the latest ICAO audit and the fact that ICAO audit did not express any serious safety concern.

The fear of international agencies mainly stems from a feeling that India has in last decade has not taken steps to strengthen its regulatory framework even as air traffic has exploded in the country and the lack of technical experts heading this agency. In fact, following an audit in 2013, the FAA had in January 2014 downgrading the country’s safety ranking due to the UPA’s continued failure to strengthen Aviation Safety Oversight Mechanism.

After this first-ever downgrade, India took a number of steps to strengthen the DGCA. Then in April 2015 FAA had restored Indian Aviation’s Top Safety Ranking. But even while upgrading India, FAA had expressed concerned at the “lack of continuity at top” at the regulator. It was uncomfortable with the fact that the DGCA has had six Director-Generals (DG) since 2008 (till 2015, a number that has now gone up to seven). In 2008, Kanu Gohain had demitted office as the last DG who rose from within the ranks. After him, IAS officers have held this post.

The most recent ICAO audit conducted last November strongly recommended that Air Navigation Services (ANS) which provide Air Traffic Controllers (ATC) should come under a separate regulatory agency. The Airports Authority of India (AAI) is the parent body of ANS as well as the regulatory agency for the ATCs and the UN’s Aviation Agency ICAO wants some other agency like the DGCA to be the regulator for the same. Now the government has decided that the oversight of ANS will be done by DGCA.

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