India is one of the lowest-ranked countries in the world when it comes to air safety. In the wake of the Jet Airways incident, this news does not seem very encouraging. India's air safety oversight is lower than its Asia-Pacific counterparts such as Bangladesh, Maldives, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and North Korea. The countries that have fared worse than India are small, lesser-known states like Timor-Leste, Samoa, and Vanuatu.
The ranking is the result of an aviation-safety audit conducted by the United Nations' International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) last year. The findings revealed that India slipped below its previous ranking of 66% to 57%. The ICAO Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme seeks to look at countries that have effectively and consistently implemented the critical elements of a safety-oversight system.
India is one of the 15 countries that have scored below the minimum target rates, as mentioned in a report in The Economic Times.
One of the consequences of a low score is a potential downgrading by US aviation regulator Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The FAA was in India in July this year to conduct an audit after India slipped in its score.
A downgrade by FAA would mean that Indian airlines won't be able to run new flights to the US or form alliances with US airlines. Indian carriers that would land in USA would also face harsher checks. India has already been downgraded once - in 2014. The downgrade was removed after a year.
This development does not come as welcome news for Indian airlines that have been trying to expand globally.
The report says that one of the reasons behind India's dismal performance is the government's neglect of aviation regulator, DGCA. There has been a "drastic reduction" - from 89% to 26% - in the effective implementation rate in the area of personnel licensing. This led to a major fall in India's score.
The ICAO highlighted that the licensing of air-traffic controllers (ATC) was being carried out by state-run Airports Authority of India (AAI), which was one of the key areas of concern. As per international practices, the DGCA should issue licences to ATC officials who play a very important role in the seamless management of flight operations across the country.
(Edited by Anwesha Madhukalya)