Air traffic control tower in Delhi (Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg) 

Government Says DGCA To Regulate Air Traffic Controllers After Fall In Audit Score

The Indian government today said it would soon empower the Directorate General of Civil Aviation to regulate air traffic controllers after India’s score fell in the latest UN aviation watchdog’s air safety oversight audit.

It has been decided that the DGCA would be carrying out regulatory and safety oversight of air traffic controllers, Civil Aviation Secretary RN Choubey said in a press briefing that was also attended by Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha, senior DGCA officials. They also emphasised that there are no safety concerns for the country's civil aviation space

The International Civil Aviation Organisation carried out the Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme for India in November 2017 and another team of the watchdog came in February this year. The audit result showed that the country’s score declined to 57.4 percent from 65.8 percent earlier, placing India below Pakistan, Nepal and many other nations.

The decline was mainly due to ratings of air traffic controllers being given by the Airports Authority of India, which is also the provider of air traffic control services, the officials said. The ICAO told the ministry that there was a need for an independent regulatory oversight by the DGCA on the AAI with respect to air traffic controllers, the officials added.

The briefing also came on a day when U.S. Federal Aviation Administration began its audit that would mainly look at operations, airworthiness and pilots’ licensing mechanism.

Air-traffic controllers monitors flights inside a control center at Indira Gandhi International Airport  in Delhi, India. (Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg)
Air-traffic controllers monitors flights inside a control center at Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi, India. (Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg)

The decision to empower DGCA was in-principle taken in April this year after the audit results came. The Airports Authority of India will now provide only air traffic control services while regulation of air traffic controllers would be done by the DGCA.

According to Bhullar, fresh and formal licenses would be given to air traffic controllers by the DGCA starting early next year, possibly by February and March. The regulator is currently developing a system to oversee the controllers of AAI, which once in place, would improve the effective implementation levels as required by the ICAO.

The United Nations aviation watchdog’s score was based on eight audit areas, including primary aviation legislation and aviation regulations, civil aviation organisation, personnel licensing and training.

Choubey asserted that the ICAO did not raise any serious safety concerns after the audit. The safety and security of Indian aviation sector would not be compromised, he added.

Since 2013, this would be the third audit of the domestic aviation regulator by the FAA. In 2013, the American regulator had downgraded the safety ranking of the Indian aviation sector and it was restored only in 2015.