Experts reckon that India needs a strong aviation safety authority on the lines of FAA of USA
The government has set the ball rolling for the complete overhaul of aviation regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), to bring it at par with other global regulators.
The Civil Aviation Ministry has constituted a committee headed by former Skill Development Secretary and Air India ex-chief, Rohit Nandan for this purpose.
Members of the panel include former DGCA chief Satender Singh and a representative from global aviation consultancy, the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA). The terms of reference (ToR) for the committee include studying the best practices globally and suggest measures to put a technically strong body in place.
"It was long due. The organisation has been in dire need of a restructuring. The committee would suggest how best the DGCA can be restructured. It will also suggest how more autonomy could be ensured. It will also look into the financial aspect," said a person familiar with the development.
Given that the domestic air traffic has grown multi-fold in the last one decade, experts are of the view that India needs a strong aviation safety authority on the lines of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of the US.
"The DGCA is currently woefully short of the required manpower given the size of Indian aviation. It does not have the power to hire professionals on its own and it has to go Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) for each appointment. The regulator currently lacks the teeth," said Rajan Mehra, CEO of Club One Air and former India head of Qatar Airways.
The UPA government had earlier proposed to set up financially autonomous Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) but it never saw the light of the day. An autonomous authority with complete administrative and financial freedom had been envisaged to ensure safety oversight.
Aviation safety consultant Captain Mohan Ranganathan said the need for strengthening of regulatory oversight had been pointed out as far back as 2006 and subsequently, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) audit also observed this.
"One of the reasons why India is getting so many audits done is because even though we keep telling them we comply with that, the fact is that credibility is so low that they (ICAO) keep coming almost every year," he said.
DGCA has been mostly headed by Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officers instead of a technical professional. Arun Kumar, a 1989 batch IAS officer of Haryana cadre, currently heads the aviation safety regulator.