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Hope for safety rating lift

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By OUR CORRESPONDENT
  • Published 15.09.14
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New Delhi, Sept. 14: Officials of America’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are expected to review the steps taken by India to improve flight safety.

The FAA had downgraded the country’s aviation safety rating to Category 2 in January after the directorate general of civil aviation (DGCA) failed to resolve the concerns flagged off by the US agency.

“We would like India to be Category 1 as soon as possible. We invited them (the FAA) to visit the DGCA for a review in September or October, when our team went to the US and made a presentation to them last month,” civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju said while highlighting the ministry’s achievements in the past 100 days.

He said the FAA team would be visiting India and “I am sure India will return to Category 1”.

The FAA had done two safety audits and had found deficiencies on over 30 counts.

One such area is the lack of a technical manpower such as flight inspectors, a large number of whom have now been recruited.

On the regulator serving show-cause notices to 131 pilots of Jet Airways for not clearing the necessary tests, the minister said the DGCA would not compromise on safety.

“There can be no compromise on safety. The DGCA is expected to act according to the law and they are doing it,” he said.

On aviation bodies such as Air India, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) and the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority working without officials at the top, Raju said, “We are taking care that the work does not suffer. But there is a procedure through which such vacancies are filled up and that is being followed.”

While Air India chairman and managing director Rohit Nandan is on a three-month extension that ends in October, the post of the AAI chairman is now occupied by board member S. Raheja till a fulltime chief is appointed.

On Air India’s financial position, Raju said the state-run airline had shown “major improvements” in its load factors and yields.

“The government has released Rs 3,833 crore in the first quarter of 2014-15 against the total allocation of Rs 6,600 crore for the entire financial year,” he said.

The minister said the government had no plans to bail out any loss making airline, though it was holding discussions with various state governments to lower the taxes on aviation turbine fuel (ATF).

“This is not a sector that is entitled to subsidies. The government is not involved in any bailout package. Let us be very clear about that. Airlines are entitled to ask anybody to give them a cheaper loan. The government is not coming in the way of that.

“The second part is about highly taxed items such as ATF. We have been requesting state governments to come down. Fuel forms a substantial cost of an airline. It is a highly taxed item. Some states have responded. Very few till now. We hope more will come on board,” Raju said.