India to set up autonomous civil aviation watchdog

By Neelam Mathews, IANS
Sunday, October 24, 2010

NEW DELHI - The Air India Express crash in Mangalore in May that killed 158 passengers and crew has led India to fast-track an independent Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to ensure better aviation safety, security and regulation, a top official said.

The autonomous authority will provide for more flexibility and faster decision-making, along with greater autonomy than that with the present regulator — the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, which functions under the Ministry of Civil Aviation.

“The new Civil Aviation Authority will bring about even more safety. It will be made to function within a time frame of 18-24 months, once the proposed act in this regard is cleared by parliament,” Zaidi told IANS.

“A comprehensive Indian aviation law will also replace all the existing acts relating to the sector and the security aspects to put the proposed Civil Aviation Authority in place,” Zaidi added.

Officials said domestic traffic has been growing considerably — and expanded by over 14 percent in July 2010 to carry four million passengers — and the congestion in air and

on ground calls for urgent, speedy measures to address emergency and crises.

The chief executive of the new authority will also be the chairman of its board and the director general will have the power to make imminent spot decisions, the officials added.

“The present directorate is already making moves in the direction. We have a regulatory framework for surveillance and safety systems and we have also developed a strong safety system information analysis system for our skies to remain safe,” said Zaidi.

The constitution of a new authority also finds mention in the over-three-year-old draft aviation policy that has not been cleared yet.

The functions include setting up of standards for various agencies and personnel in the civil aviation sector, regulate traffic and issue licences to agencies such as airport and aircraft operators and personnel like pilots, traffic controllers and engineers.

The authority will also have powers to take preventive, corrective and punitive action against agencies and staff for violation of rules and regulations and to ensure ethical trade practices, officials said.

Another function of the authority will be to conduct periodic safety and security audits, including flight inspections of agencies to ensure that the prescribed local and global standards are being met.

International Air Transport Organization director-general Giovanni Bisignani, during a visit here last month, had called for strict security measures and also recommended that its operational safety audit be made mandatory for all Indian carriers.

The organisation represents around 230 airlines globally, comprising 93 percent of all scheduled international air traffic operations. Its safety audit programme is a globally accepted system to assess the operational management and control systems of an airline.

These guidelines are already being followed in India and will be fine-tuned into the new authority, along with concepts and principles designed for audits in a more standardised manner, officials said.

(Neelam Mathews can be reached at and

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