Aviation Safety in India

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    • In the latest rankings by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), India’s position has jumped to the 48th place from the 102nd spot in 2018.

    Key Highlights

    • Total number of countries: 
      • The rankings are for 187 countries and assessments were done at different points of time. 
      • Under its Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP) Continuous Monitoring Approach, an ICAO Coordinated Validation Mission (ICVM) was undertaken from November 9 to 16.
    • The Effective Implementation (EI) of six areas were assessed: 
      • LEG is Primary Aviation Legislation and Specific Operating Regulations; 
      • ORG is Civil Aviation Organisation; 
      • PEL is Personnel Licensing and Training; 
      • OPS is Aircraft Operations;
      • AIR is Airworthiness of Aircraft; and 
      • AGA is Aerodrome and Ground Aid.
    • Coordinated Validated Mission:
      • So far for India, the ICAO has done the Coordinated Validated Mission four times, including the last one in November this year.
      • It did the mission in December 2012 that covered all the areas and the EI score rose from 79.84% to 81.32%. 
      • The mission was next conducted in August 2013 that looked at two areas – OPS and AIR. At that time, the score improved from 79.73% to 81.19%.
      • Another mission was done in November 2018. It covered LEG, ORG, AIG, ANS and AGA. During that time, the EI score declined from 71.86% to 69.95%. 
        • AIG is Aircraft Accident and Incident Investigation; ANS is Air Navigation Services.
    • Eight critical elements: 
      • The ICAO looks at these elements for the safety oversight system, including primary aviation legislation, specific operating regulations, resolution of safety issues and surveillance obligations.
    • Score: 
      • With a score of 85.49% each, India and Georgia are at the 48th position. 
      • Neighbouring Pakistan’s score is 70.39%. 
      • The rankings are topped by Singapore with a score of 99.69%. 
      • It is followed by the UAE at the second position with a score of 98.8% and the Republic of Korea is at the third place (98.24%).
      • Others in the top ten are France (4th; 96.42%), Iceland (5th; 95.73%), Australia (6th; 95.04%), Canada (7th; 94.95%), Brazil (8th; 94.72%), Ireland (9th; 94.6%) and Chile (10th; 93.9%), as per the DGCA officials.
    • Against China:
      • The ranking, which also places it ahead of China (49), is the highest ever received by India.
    • Coming out of the impacts of COVID 19:
      • The country’s aviation sector is slowly coming back into the growth trajectory after being severely hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the domestic air traffic is also inching towards the pre-pandemic level.

     

    Aviation Sector in India

    • About: 
      • India is one of the fastest growing aviation markets in the world.  
    • Domestic: 
      • Its domestic traffic makes up 69% of the total airline traffic in South Asia.  
    • Capacity: 
      • India’s airport capacity is expected to handle 1 billion trips annually by 2023. 
    • Responsible Ministry:
      • The Ministry of Civil Aviation is responsible for formulating national aviation policies and programmes. 
    • Airports Authority of India (AAI): 
      • It is responsible for creating, upgrading, maintaining and managing civil aviation infrastructure in the country.   
      • As on June 23, 2020, it operates and manages 137 airports in the country. 
      • AAI has leased out eight of its airports through Public Private Partnership (PPP) for operation, management and development on a long term lease basis.
    • Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS-UDAN):
      • The top 15 airports in the country account for about 83% of the total passenger traffic. 
      • These airports are also close to their saturation limit, and hence the Ministry notes that there is a need to add more Tier-II and Tier-III cities to the aviation network.  
      • The Regional Connectivity Scheme was introduced in 2016 to stimulate regional air connectivity and make air travel affordable to the masses.  
      • The budget for this scheme is Rs 4,500 crore over five years from 2016-17 to 2021-22. 
      • As of December 16, 2021, 46% of this amount has been released.  In 2022-23, the scheme has been allocated Rs 601 crore, which is 60% lower than the revised estimates of 2021-22 (Rs 994 crore).  

    Challenges

    • Maintaining: 
      • The challenge now is to maintain and further improve the air safety ecosystem.
    • Financial: 
      • The aviation sector came under severe financial stress during the Covid-19 pandemic. After air travel was suspended in March 2020, airline operators in India reported losses worth more than Rs 19,500 crore while airports reported losses worth more than Rs 5,120 crore. 
    • Congestion at Airports: 
      • Domestic air traffic has more than doubled from around 61 million passengers in 2013-14 to around 137 million in 2019-20.  
      • International passenger traffic has grown from 47 million in 2013-14 to around 67 million in 2019-20, registering a growth of over 6% per annum.  
      • As a result, airports in India are witnessing rising levels of congestion.  
      • Most major airports are operating at 85% to 120% of their handling capacity.   
    • Resource availability: 
      • Lack of availability of land and creation of regional infrastructure has led to delays in the Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS-UDAN). 
      •  Issues with obtaining licenses and unsustainable operation of awarded routes also contribute to the delay.
    • Capacity and infrastructure: 
      • Due to the rapid expansion, airspace, parking bays and runway slots will become increasingly scarce over the next few years,
    • Skilled workers: 
      • According to a study conducted by the Ministry of Civil Aviation, Indian aviation could directly support 1.0 to 1.2 million jobs by 2035.
      • This implies that about 0.25 million persons will need to be skilled over the next 10 years.
      • But there is a shortage and gaps in availability of industry-recognised skills.
    • High cost to passengers and of air cargo:
      • Tariff determination: The government has mandated that all airports move from a single to a hybrid till structure. It raises costs for airlines and passengers.
      • Taxes on aviation turbine fuel (ATF): Due to high taxes and lack of competition among providers, ATF is relatively expensive in India. It is also outside the ambit of GST which creates high regional disparity in its price.
      • Incidence of GST on Aircraft Leases and Spare Parts: It also raises cost for the sector.
      • Profitless Growth: Rising aviation turbine fuel cost, slowdown in capacity addition, and decline in the value of rupees leading to a scenario of Profitless Growth.
      • Aviation safety: Although, the number of aviation safety violations in 2017 (337) has declined in comparison to 2016 (442), the absolute number still remains high.
      • Security and Terrorism: Rising global terrorism and airports have become preferred targets of terrorist groups.
      • Lack of Draft Passengers Charter: In the absence of such a draft, adequate services to passengers cannot be ensured.
    • Rising cost of Aviation Turbine Fuel:
      • The cost of Aviation Turbine Fuel (ATF) forms around 40% of the total operating cost of airlines and impacts their financial viability.  
      • ATF prices have been consistently rising over the past years, placing stress on the balance sheets of airline companies.  
      • As per recent news reports, airfares are expected to rise as the conflict between Russia and Ukraine is making ATF costlier.

    Way Ahead

    • The Government should go for privatisation of some airports to address the problem of congestion.  
    • ATF should be included within the ambit of GST and that applicable GST should not exceed 12% on ATF with full Input Tax Credit. 

    International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO)

    • ICAO is funded and directed by 193 national governments to support their diplomacy and cooperation in air transport as signatory states to the Chicago Convention (1944).
    • Vision:
      • Achieve the sustainable growth of the global civil aviation system.
    • Mission:
      • To serve as the global forum of States for international civil aviation. ICAO develops policies and Standards, undertakes compliance audits, performs studies and analyses, provides assistance and builds aviation capacity through many other activities and the cooperation of its Member States and stakeholders.
    • Core functions:
      • To maintain an administrative and expert bureaucracy (the ICAO Secretariat) supporting these diplomatic interactions
      • To research new air transport policy 
      • Standardisation innovations as directed and endorsed by governments through the ICAO Assembly, or by the ICAO Council which the assembly elects.
      • In addition to these core diplomatic and research capabilities, ICAO also serves as a critical coordination platform in civil aviation through its seven Regional Offices.

    Source: TH