New safety rules have been put in place for VIP operation of planes and helicopters to avoid mishaps like the one which killed former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YSR Reddy.
The rules, framed by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), encompass all aspects of flight operations --from acquisition of aircraft, employment of crew and engineers to definition of VIPs.
The new rule says that a VIP flight would mean having amongst the passengers any one of the eight categories of dignitaries.
The categories include the Lok Sabha Speaker, Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairperson, Cabinet Ministers, Chief Justice of India, Governors, Chief Ministers, State Cabinet Ministers and the SPG protectees who enjoy 'Z-plus' category security.
The President, the Vice President and the Prime Minister travel on IAF aircraft as a rule.
While no flight would be allowed to be operated when "weather conditions are not conducive to safe operations", every VIP flight would be operated with "a multiple crew composition", the Civil Aviation Requirement says.
Stringent conditions have been laid down for the pilots of planes and helicopters.
A Pilot-in-Command (PIC) should either have a Commercial Pilot License (CPL) or an Airline Transport Pilots License (ATPL) with at least 3,000 hours of flying experience, of which 2,000 hours should be as a PIC on the type of aircraft to be flown. He or she should also have a minimum of 50 hours of night flying experience.
For helicopter pilots, the commander should possess similar licenses, with 2,000 hours of flying experience including 500 hours as PIC on the same aircraft type. They should also have at least 10 hours of night flying experience.
In order to regulate flight operations of state governments and PSUs, many of which have a fleet of planes or choppers, the DGCA has specified rules for recruitment of pilots, crew and engineers and also their training programmes.
Similar rules have also been laid down for aircraft maintenance and repairs, besides other airworthiness requirements.
The aircraft should be fitted with all suitable equipments needed for instrument flying and pilots should hold valid instrument ratings, the rule stresses.
The aviation departments of state governments or aviation divisions of PSUs would have to apply to the DGCA for undertaking aircraft operations with a fee of Rs one lakh.
They would be granted permits which would be renewable every two years depending on fulfilment of all necessary conditions.
The departments or PSUs would also have to apply to the DGCA for importing of planes or helicopters, as per the new rules.
The guidelines come in the backdrop of recommendations of the YSR Reddy helicopter crash probe headed by Pawan Hans chief R K Tyagi.
The probe panel had recommended auditing of all state government aviation departments, particularly in the context of VIP operations, and their organisational capabilities.
It had also recommended that the aviation regulator ask all helicopter operators of state governments and public sector units to review their Standard Operating Procedures on various issues. These include VIP sorties over difficult terrains like dense forests, hilly areas and large water bodies.
The inquiry panel had suggested fixing of norms for defence pilots to operate government or PSU-owned choppers as well as regular proficiency checks for other pilots.
Among the recommendations was starting of short-duration courses for pilots, crew, engineers and others concerned on VIP flights.