India’s aviation safety rating downgrade could have cascading effects

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By Stephen B Huttler, Jennifer E Trock, Moushami P Joshi, Kenneth P Quinn and Sanjay Jose Mullick

On 31 January 2014, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) downgraded India’s aviation safety rating to Category 2 under the FAA’s International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) programme — a programme designed to ensure safety oversight by foreign aviation authorities in accordance with applicable International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards and recommended practices.

FAA’s foreign assessment programme focuses on a country’s ability, not the individual air carrier’s, to adhere to ICAO’s standards and recommended practices for aircraft operations and maintenance, largely under Annex 6 of the Chicago Convention. The downgrade, which came after years of consultations with the FAA, serves as a stark reminder to governments undergoing IASA and ICAO reviews to promptly and comprehensively address concerns before their status is downgraded.

For India’s civil aviation authority, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), the downgrade begins what could be a protracted process to restore India’s Category 1 rating and demonstrate its safety oversight capabilities. For India’s air carriers, the downgrade means they cannot add new service or aircraft to the US and may be subjected to heightened oversight by the FAA until Category 1 status is restored. The determination has similar impacts on US airlines placing their code on flights operated by Indian airlines, as the FAA does not support code sharing between US carriers and carriers of Category 2 countries. While not likely, if India fails to correct deficiencies within a reasonable period of time, the FAA can recommend that the US Department of Transportation (DOT) revoke or suspend the operating authority of all Indian carriers operating to the US…

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