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FAA Team to Visit India Soon

A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) team would soon visit India to review the steps taken by DGCA to address the deficiencies in India's aviation safety mechanism, which was downgraded by the US regulator early this year.
"The DGCA has requested the FAA (for a review) and I think the FAA team is coming shortly. So, there will be a review," Civil Aviation Minister P Ashok Gajapathi Raju told PTI here.
"Our people are confident that we will be able to get back our old status (Category-I) of being on par with the best in the world," he said in a wide-ranging interview.
Almost all of the 33 major areas of concern identified by the FAA on aviation safety issues, like the DGCA not having full-time fight inspectors, have been addressed, he said.
It is likely that a decision by the FAA to restore the top Category-I status of India's aviation safety mechanism could come during the US visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi next month.
Referring to the problems faced by the DGCA in recruiting professional aviation engineers and technical personnel at market rates, Raju said the Union Cabinet has addressed the issue by giving the regulator "little freedom to go in accordance with the market forces".
With new procedures in place and technical manpower recruited to carry out aviation safety surveillance, the DGCA has sought a review of the FAA's downgrade and sent a letter to the US regulator for a fresh audit of India's safety oversight mechanism. At their meeting, the DGCA would provide the FAA a status report on the progress made on each of the findings.
The prime reason for the US regulator FAA downgrading India's aviation safety ranking to Category-II was lack of sufficient number of regular flight inspectors which had rendered the DGCA's safety oversight ineffective.
On January 31, this year, the FAA had lowered India's safety ranking to Category-II from Category-I which the country has been holding since 1997.
To a question on high fuel cost being borne by Indian carriers mainly due to taxes charged by the states, Raju said he has urged all Chief Ministers to address this problem as it "acts as a dampener to aviation activity". State sales taxes and other charges on jet fuel average at about 29 per cent.
On the massive expenses borne by airlines in repairing their fleet abroad, he said the maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) also faced high rates of taxation.
Regarding the role that could be played by state governments to improve aviation activities across India, the Minister said growth in aviation sector in states would lead to heightened economic activity and generation of jobs.
He said there were suggestions for state governments to come up with "concessions like those given to SEZs (Special Economic Zones)" to the MROs which would not only add to economic activity in the states but also generate jobs.
"Airlines will fly where the costs are low. Increased ticket costs are borne by the consumers. So if you reduce jet fuel costs, that will make tickets cheaper and encourage more people to fly from that place making the place more attractive," he said.
Observing that the Centre could provide some "actionable points" for the states to act upon in this direction, he said such measures by the state governments could also encourage competition among them and be beneficial as well.
On the public-private partnership (PPP) projects to modernise six airports started by the ersthwhile UPA government, Raju said the Civil Aviation Ministry was reviewing the process but there was "nothing concrete" as yet.
The six airports, owned by state-run Airports Authority of India which were to be modernised through the PPP, are those in Kolkata, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Guwahati, Jaipur and Lucknow.