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Monday, February 24, 2014


This story first appeared in The Economic Times.

NEW DELHI: Uber rich Indians can no longer be assured of luxuriously flying overseas in their charter or personal aircraft as per their own schedule. The downgrade of India's aviation safety ranking by US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has led to strict checks on aircraft chartered from Indian firms as well as corporate jets owned by desi companies at foreign airports.

A business tycoon recently (after the January 31 downgrade) chartered an ultra snug corporate jet for a quick business trip to Paris. But once this plane landed there, it was subjected to intense safety checks by French aviation authorities. They reportedly pointed out a number of deficiencies and the aircraft could fly out of Paris only remaining stuck there for three to four days.

The tycoon, meanwhile, had to catch a regular commercial flight back home from France — a la aam admi!

"The downgrade has badly hit Indian charters. Some countries like Singapore do not easily give permission to Indian charters to operate there. The earlier impression that the FAA downgrade will impact only regular schedule airlines was erroneous as charter players are severely affected," said an industry insider.

Based on the examination of the Indian aircraft in Paris, the French authorities have written to the Indian directorate general of civil aviation (DGCA). "I would like to inform you that one or several European program for safety assessment of foreign aircraft ramp inspections were performed on your aircraft and revealed findings showing that International Civil Aviation Organization standards were not fully met... would kindly appreciate to be informed of the corrective actions that have been undertaken," the French aviation authorities wrote to DGCA and the charter operator.

After this incident, top DGCA officials summoned charter operators for an urgent meeting. "All charter operators have been asked to ensure that both their crew and aircraft meet all requirements and that the paperwork is in perfect order. They have been told that the DGCA will also mount strict checks on them in India to avoid any problems abroad," said a person who was at the meeting.

"We should return the favour to foreign airlines. Why is it being assumed that we are no good and the foreigners are perfect? Many airlines abroad are nowhere even near our technical standards. The problem was with DGCA and desi airlines are paying the price!" fumed a senior official of an Indian carrier.

The DGCA had earlier this month formed two teams to check foreign aircraft and charter planes from abroad were high on their list for inspections. They suspected foreign charters may not be meeting all safety standards. "Big schedule airlines have engineering and technical teams in place and the bigger cause of worry is the charter operators," an official said.