April 2013

Safe and Comfortable Flying

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Arun Mishra,
Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA),
provides an overview of the steps that DGCA is taking to ensure that the Indian Civil Aviation industry continues to function in a safe, transparent and efficient manner

What steps are being taken for enhancing the security of the national skies? In your view what else can be done to make it even safer to fly in the country?

DGCA is a regulatory body that is mandated to govern the safety aspects of civil aviation in the country. In DGCA we are totally committed to ensure safe sky for civil aviation. Safety is our first and foremost priority. We are always constantly engaged to promote safe and efficient Air Transportation through regulation and proactive safety oversight system. We understand very well that ensuring safety in the sky is not an one-time exercise. One has to constantly upgrade the systems and make continuous efforts to ensure that we have the infrastructure and the systems in place for safe air transportation in the country. New challenges keep emerging all the time, so we have to keep innovating. We are now planning to induct more technical officers in the DGCA. Some of the airlines are not doing that well.

Is that having any impact on the security and safety?
We have a very robust supervision system in place. We also have an annual surveillance programme through which we conduct regular safety audits of all the airlines. Our regional offices oversee the operations of various airlines in their sector and keep track of air safety and air worthiness related issues. We don’t think safety is being compromised in any way.

Tell us about your State Safety Programme and Safety Management System. International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) places responsibility on Contracting States to formulate a State Safety Programme (SSP). The Programme is an integrated set of regulations and activities aimed at improving safety. The SSP is based on comprehensive analysis of the State’s aviation system, safety policies and risk management, safety assurance and promotion. Safety oversight of DGCA is now focused on areas of significant safety concerns or higher safety risks. At DGCA, we have adopted the systems as recommended by ICAO. The Safety Management System is a well laid out procedure that every organization connected to civil aviation has to follow. We are ensuring that the officers at every level are adequately trained and the Safety Management System is implemented in every area of operation. We also encourage different  lines to disclose each and every incident, even if it is of minor nature. Voluntary disclosure does not lead to retribution or punishment. We will like airlines and other operators to come voluntarily and disclose their problem, so that we can find the right solutions. The problems of one airline can also serve as a learning experience for other airlines. So if the problems are shared, it will act as a learning experience for everyone. Mostly the Indian skies have been relatively free of air accidents. But recently, report on airline safety by the UN body ICAO reportedly clubbed India with some of the African countries. The air navigation system that we have in the country is one of the best in the world. In fact, we have recently received two international awards for efficiency in air navigation and communication systems. As I said earlier, safety in civil aviation is an ongoing process. We have to keep developing and implementing new technologies and systems as they become available. But it is also true that the expertise and systems that we have now is being valued all over.

On your website, you have a feature through which the passengers can know the details and reliability of the aircraft that they plan to fly on for their own safety and the safety of people they care for. How popular is this service?

Well, this service is for those who are interested. We have not got much response on this yet. But still, it is on good information for everyone who is flying. I would also like to add that  here is nothing called the best aircraft. Every aircraft that is being allowed to fly in the Indian skies is safe, even though different aircrafts have their own features and advantages.

One critical area that DGCA is looking after is the training and evaluation of pilots for different airlines. Now you have started an online system for pilot application and examination. Is this leading to more transparency?
The online system for pilot examination that we have started is working very well. As there is great deal of transparency in the online system of examination, there is no scope for complaints at a later stage. Another advantage of the online mode is that the results become available almost immediately. It has made the task of evaluating pilots much simpler. Now we are trying to graduate to a system for on-demand online examination. Anybody who wants to give the examination, he has to just give date and time.
There is a prescribed fee for this service.

What are the steps are you
 adopting to ensure that there is improvement in the quality of flying training?
Flying training comprises of two things, the ground training and the actual flying. Although
we have some very good flying training schools, we also have some average flying training
schools. An example of a good training institute is the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Uran Akademi. We are working with the idea of bringing up the standards of the training that is being imparted in all the institutions for flying. We are constantly doing audit programmes; the institution sare being accessed on a regular basis to access the quality of flying training that they are providing. The list of DGCA approved flying training institutions is available on our website.

Tell us about the e-Governance initiatives that you are implementing within DGCA to bring more efficiency to your operations.

The online examination of pilots that we are holding is an example of a successful e-Governance project from DGCA. We have now embarked upon a major new e-Governance project that will lead to a total computerization of the various processes within DGCA. It will also lead to a re-looking at some of these processes. Once the project is fully implemented, the entire range of operations will be fully streamlined and important information for decision making will be available to the DGCA at the click of a mouse. This is a Rs 120 crore project. I think by middle of next year, we will be able to fully implement this project.  A large number of trees are being planted in thearea around Delhi, Bangalore and Hyderabadairports. Environment Cells have been establishedin stakeholders such as Airlines, Airports, AirNavigation Service Providers.Our website is very user friendly. If somebodyhas applied for pilot examination, the personcan see all the details. If somebody has appliedfor licence, the person will be able to access thedetails on our website. But we are not stoppingat this stage; we are working to bring aboutfurther improvements in our website. The aimis to enrich the content and the usability of thewebsite. In this area the feedback that we receivefrom the users of our website is very helpful, asit enables us to implement new ideas.One of our priorities over here is local noise.We have now taken several steps to monitor thenoise levels from various aircrafts. With newadvancements in aviation technology, the levelof noise from aircraft has decreased, but it is alsotrue that now we have much larger number ofaircrafts, so the level of noise from all of these isquite substantial. We need to find a balance. Wehave also undertaken a survey of our carbonfootprint. We came up with a carbon footprintreport for 2011. Now we hope to do that exerciseevery year. Such monitoring of carbon footprintwill enable us to devise new ideas for preventingdamage to the environment. We are also trying toimprove our flying processes so that there is lessconsumption of fuel. Recently we have decidedin coordination with Ministry of Defence thatwe will have flexible use of air space. Right nowthe military space is closed for civilian aircraft.We have now an agreement that whenever militarydoes not require that space will be used forcivilian aircraft. That will reduce route length andbring down the time taken for flights to fly fromone to another as well as fuel emission and theenvironmental issues related to fuel emission.

What are the key features of your website?

DGCA is trying to tackle some of the environment related issues by setting up of an Aviation Environment Unit. Tell us about it.

One of our priorities over here is local noise. We have now taken several steps to monitor the noise levels from various aircrafts. With new advancements in aviation technology, the level
of noise from aircraft has decreased, but it is also true that now we have much larger number of aircrafts, so the level of noise from all of these is quite substantial. We need to find a balance. We have also undertaken a survey of our carbon footprint. We came up with a carbon footprint report for 2011. Now we hope to do that exercise every year. Such monitoring of carbon footprint will enable us to devise new ideas for preventing damage to the environment. We are also trying to improve our flying processes so that there is less consumption of fuel. Recently we have decided in coordination with Ministry of Defence that
we will have flexible use of air space. Right now the military space is closed for civilian aircraft. We have now an agreement that whenever military does not require that space will be used for civilian aircraft. That will reduce route length and bring down the time taken for flights to fly from one to another as well as fuel emission and the environmental issues related to fuel emission.

What are the steps you are taking to offset the carbon footprint of India’s civil aviation sector?
A large number of trees are being planted in the area around Delhi, Bangalore and Hyderabad airports. Environment Cells have been established in stakeholders such as Airlines, Airports, Air Navigation Service Providers

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