India may permit higher levels of foreign equity in some softer segments of civil aviation, including aircraft maintenance facilities and chopper operations, Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel said on Thursday.
"The softer side of civil aviation has not reached the full potential in India yet," Patel told a conference on the margins of the Aero India Show, organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
"We have a 49 per cent limit on foreign equity in civil aviation. We want to have more foreign equity in the softer side," the minister said, making a distinction between scheduled airline operations and other areas of the aviation industry.
According to the minister, while India is witnessing unprecedented growth in scheduled airline operations, some other segments in the industry have only begun to look up.
"We have the potential to add as many as 500 aircraft in freight operations. At the moment, we only have five or six dedicated aircraft in India for that being operated by a couple of cargo companies," he said.
This apart, the high economic growth and the general progress being made by the Indian industry has also created the potential for adding some 300-400 business jets in the country, he added.
"Helicopter service, sea-planes, MROs (maintenance, repair and overhaul units) and non-scheduled operations are some of the other areas where India is embarking on high ground."
The minister said talks were also on with some countries and the International Civil Aviation Organisation to revamp the regulatory framework for the industry, a task currently being performed by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation.
"Other issues like aviation safety is also being discussed," he added.