US to help India get back Category 1 aviation safety rating

A day after US aviation sector regulator Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) downgraded India's aviation safety ranking to Category 2, thereby effectively barring Indian carriers from increasing flights to the US, the Obama administration said it would work with India to help it get back the Category 1 aviation safety rating "as soon as possible."

Washington's downgrade, which brings India's ranking below that of Pakistan and at par with countries like Ghana and Bangladesh, would effectively bar Air India and Jet Airways from increasing flights to the US.

Indian airlines will also have to snap ties with US airlines. Jet has a code-share agreement with United Airlines currently while Air India is joining Star Alliance.

"They have downgraded us to category 2, which is very disappointing and also surprising," Aviation minister Ajit Singh said at a press conference in New Delhi.

India, meanwhile refuted US allegations saying that the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) assessment of India on Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP) is much above the global average.

ICAO's assessment of airline safety is based on eight critical elements, viz, legislation, organisation, licensing, operation, airworthiness, accident investigation, air navigation and aerodromes.  

As per ICAO 2013 safety report, India figures among the states having effective implementation above the global average, which is 61per cent, the aviation ministry said, adding that India's effective implementation stands at 79.

''The only area in which India lacks marginally in effective implementation of critical element is `organisation'.  For this, India has already created 75 posts of chief flight operations inspector (CFOI), deputy CFOIs, Senior CFOIs and FOIs. After the recruitment, it is expected that effective implementation in this element also would rise much above the global average. In fact, in legislation, even USA is below India,'' the ministry said in its release, citing figures.

A Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) team in already in India, in part to discuss how to go about doing just that. This is part of an ongoing exercise. The FAA is required to periodically evaluate whether that CAAs elsewhere are overseeing the safety of their international civil aviation operations according to the ICAO standards.

The FAA had, earlier announced that India was not in compliance with international safety standards set by the UN agency International Civilian Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

The downgrading of safety ranking means India's aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) does not meet the safety standards set by ICAO.

"Both the US and India are fully committed to restoring India to a Category 1 rating as soon as possible," state department spokesperson Marie Harf said.

Air passengers to and from the US may have to face the brunt as Indian airplanes would have to go through more engineering and other safety checks on the American soil.

India's Aviation Safety Record Above Global Average
Critical Elements
Effective Implementation
Global Average (as on 31 Dec'12)
Global Average (as on date)
India's Status (as on 31 Dec'12)
Legislation
70.0
66.9
85.7
Organisation
63.0
63.5
57.1
Licensing
71.0
71.5
89.6
Operation
66.0
66.0
87.7
Airworthiness
72.0
72.9
91.1
Accident Investigation
51.0
53.6
75.3
Air Navigation
53.0
54.7
55.8
Aerodromes
58.0
57.7
87.4
Source: Ministry of Civil Aviation