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Setback to Air India as US downgrades India safety rating
February 1, 2014, 10:14 am

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of United States has downgraded India’s safety rating. After quoting inadequacies in the oversight mechanism of India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation’s (DGCA).it found last year which may be a setback to Indian carriers keen to expand their US operations

India has been lowered to Category II of safety rankings from Category I. A Category II ranking means the Indian safety regulator does not meet standards set by UN agency International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

Director General of Civil Aviation Prabhat Kumar confirmed the development saying, “They (FAA) have downgraded India to Category II.” The downgrade, which clubs India with countries such as Zimbabwe and Indonesia in terms of safety, means Indian carriers would not be able to increase flights to the US and additional checks will be imposed on existing flights of Air India and Jet Airways when they land in the US.

Even as only Air India and Jet Airways currently fly to the US, the impact could spread to other airlines as regulators in other countries could replicate the move.

Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh said he was disappointed with the downgrade but there was no need to think of any retaliatory steps. “This is very disappointing and surprising. The report has not taken into account the progress made since December," he said.

Singh said he was hopeful that FAA would review its stand after DGCA completed the training of its inspection officers by March. "In retrospect, obviously if we had acted sooner, the issue could have been resolved,” he admitted. Singh pointed out that all issues raised by FAA had been resolved, except two out of 33. He said according to FAA, 75 per cent of the safety requirements had been met whereas his view was that 95 per cent of them had been met. "One reason why we could not meet the requirements quickly is that domestic aviation has shown tremendous growth in the past five years and we could not hire enough trained people, especially on government salaries,” he said and claimed that the move would have no adverse effect on the FAA decision on the induction of Air India in Star Alliance.

On a possible impact on the orders for Boeing 787 planes being affected because of retaliatory action by India, the minister said, “I don't think there is any reason to even think of retaliation. I don't see any impact on Boeing 787 orders."

FAA has expressed concern over a lack of full-time flight operation inspectors in the DGCA. On Wednesday, the government had approved the creation of 75 crucial posts in the DGCA to carry out safety inspections of airlines and private charter companies. But the move did not come in time to stave off the downgrade. It has been decided to pay salaries to the new recruits at market-determined rates to attract good talent.


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