With new procedures in place and skilled manpower recruited to carry out aviation safety surveillance, DGCA is ready to seek a fresh audit of India's safety oversight mechanism which was downgraded in January by its US counterpart FAA.
In a bid to meet all deficiencies in 33 areas found by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) after it carried out two safety audits last year, the DGCA has been on an overdrive to recruit flight inspectors, one of the key findings of the US aviation regulator. Following these deficiencies, FAA had downgraded India from the top Category-I to II on January 31 this year.
While a large number of full-time Flight Operations Inspectors (FOIs) and other skilled and technical manpower have already been recruited, a spate of interviews are still on to further enhance the strength of such officials to enable DGCA fulfil all the criteria and seek a fresh audit. The sources said DGCA has sought a meeting with FAA next month to submit its final report and make a comprehensive presentation on the progress made in rectifying the defects and allaying the concerns expressed by the US regulator.
The FAA's downgrade of the country's safety mechanism came after it found deficiencies in 33 areas, including severe shortage of skilled manpower even at the top levels in India's aviation regulator and lack of regulations and procedures on safety surveillance and related issues.
DGCA had appointed US-based firm, The Wicks Group (TWG), under a bilateral assistance programme funded by the United States Trade and Development Agency to help rectify the defects and get the topmost Category-I status restored by FAA. TWG is understood to have presented an interim report on the progress made by DGCA expressing satisfaction. DGCA has begun the second round of interviews of pilots, including for senior posts of Chief FOI and his deputy, with the aviation regulator striving to meet concerns expressed on clean record and efficiency of candidates for such senior posts. The first round of interviews was held in March.
Earlier, the FOI jobs used to be carried out by pilots and engineers employed with Air India and private carriers but sent on deputation to DGCA which, at times, led to conflict of interest.
Recruitment of full-time FOIs and training programmes are crucial for India to get the Category-I status in safety rankings restored by the FAA. The downgrade has barred Air India and Jet Airways from expanding their operations to the US and impacted code-share arrangements with their American counterparts.