DGCA assures India’s aviation sector performed best to date in the ICAO safety audit

India’s scores in the ICAO’s air safety oversight audit will improve substantially as the international watchdog’s just-concluded validation mission was highly successful as per the initial reports, regulator DGCA said on Wednesday, November 16.

ICAO is the International Civil Aviation Organisation. Under its Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP) Continuous Monitoring Approach, an ICAO Coordinated Validation Mission (ICVM) was undertaken from November 9 to 16.

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The International Civil Aviation Organization is a specialised agency of the United Nations that coordinates the principles and techniques of international air navigation and fosters the planning and development of international air transport to ensure safe and orderly growth.

In a release on Wednesday, November 16 the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said the audit was conducted in the areas of legislation, organisation, personal licensing, operations, airworthiness and aerodromes.

“As per the initial reports, the mission was highly successful. India has done extremely well and our scores will see a substantial improvement putting us in the company of nations with the best safety standards and oversight systems,” the release said.

While the formal communication from ICAO will be received in due course of time, it is to be noted that this is India’s best performance to date, the regulator said.

India is one of the fastest-growing civil aviation markets globally and the sector is slowly recovering after being hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

USOAP monitors eight audit areas. They are Primary Aviation Legislation and Civil Aviation Regulations, Civil Aviation Organization, Personnel Licensing and Training, Aircraft Operations and Airworthiness of Aircraft. Other areas are Aircraft Accident and Incident Investigation, Air Navigation Services, and Aerodromes and Ground Aids.

In November 2017, ICAO carried out the Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme for India and another team of the watchdog came in February 2018. The audit result showed that the country’s score declined to 57.44% from 65.82% earlier, placing India below Pakistan, Nepal and many other countries.

However subsequently the civil aviation ministry and DGCA took steps following which the score improved to 74%. A better score in the ICAO audit will mean a robust aviation safety ecosystem in India and also helps airlines in their international expansion plans.

In November 2018, an ICAO team visited India and assessed the action taken on issues related to three areas that were audited by the watchdog in November 2015. Those pertained to Aerodromes and Ground Aids, Air Navigation Services (ANS) and Aircraft Accident and Incident Investigation.

During the November 2017 visit, the ICAO team assessed five areas — Personnel Licensing and Training, Aircraft Operations, Airworthiness of Aircraft, Primary Aviation Legislation and Civil Aviation Regulations, and Civil Aviation Organisation.

Through USOAP, ICAO monitors the fulfilment of the safety oversight obligations by its member states. USOAP CMA is a strategy that uses a risk-based approach for measuring and monitoring the safety oversight capabilities and improving the safety performance of states and global aviation continuously.

ICAO also carries out ICVM to ascertain whether previously identified safety deficiencies have been resolved satisfactorily by assessing the status of corrective action plans or mitigating measures taken by member states to address findings.

Civil aviation in India has recovered swiftly this year, as the threat posed by coronavirus has declined. In October, the daily number of domestic air passengers touched 4 lakh, which is close to the pre-COVID level.

The timing of this audit is also critical, with India witnessing several air incidents and passenger complaints this year. The DGCA has been keeping quite busy all through 2022, performing clean-up drives, issuing warnings, and performing regular and sporadic checks on aircraft of multiple airlines.

In September, it announced a two-month special audit of all Indian airlines to check everything, from the availability of trained, experienced, and authorized staff to the maintenance record-keeping of all aircraft.