Proving flights: What Fly91 and other new airlines must do to get flying permit - Hindustan Times
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Proving flights: What Fly91 and other new airlines must do to get a flying permit

Mar 02, 2024 05:52 PM IST

Indian aviation is cut throat. Scheduled airlines in general and regional airlines in particular have seen a lot of head winds in the past.

Fly91, India’s latest carrier, took to the skies for the first time today, operating from Manohar International Airport, Mopa, Goa to Bengaluru. The airline had taken delivery of its first ATR 72 aircraft in its own colours last week. The airline has chosen “IC” as its code, which like its planes have a history in India.

Fly91 received its NOC (No Objection Certificate) in April last year(Fly91 website)
Fly91 received its NOC (No Objection Certificate) in April last year(Fly91 website)

IC was the IATA code for Indian Airlines which operated from 1953 until 2011 when it was merged with Air India. The airline signed a deal for two aircraft in January. The airline has been low key right from unveiling the brand, livery and uniform.

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The airline received its NOC (No Objection Certificate) in April last year. The last major airline to start operations was Akasa Air, started operations in August 2022, after receiving the NOC a year earlier. Vistara and AirAsia India, both from the Tata group had reached from NOC to AOP (Air Operating Permit) in a span of eight months.

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Acceptance Flights

Before the aircraft was ferried to Goa, the airline had an acceptance flight wherein it drew 91 in skies near Hyderabad. Typically such flights are planned as customer acceptance flight and done with airline representatives of the airline on board. The airline pilots verify all the systems: engine performance, fuel indicators, flow of fuel from one fuel tank to another, flaps, slats cruise and climb performance are all re-checked in the presence of airline pilots before landing.

At its main base, the regulator conducts a Main Base Inspection (MBI) where the authorities check readiness, and a conference room exercise where flight readiness is tested before the proving flights can start.

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Proving Flights

The DGCA expects five proving flights before the AOP is granted. Proving flights are the last of multiple stages of a lengthy process involved in securing an AOP. The DGCA’s Civil Aviation Policy CAP 3100 stipulates that the airline “will be required to conduct a minimum of five flight sectors on intended routes, with a total duration of not less than 10 flight hours”. However CAP 3100 is a guideline and DGCA CAR Section 3, Series C – Part II allows the DGCA to approve the licence without a proving flight.

AirAsia India, which started operations in June 2014, conducted its proving flights in the first week of May 2014. The airline flew Chennai-Kochi, Kochi-Bengaluru and Bengaluru-Chennai on day one, followed by Chennai-Kolkata-Chennai the next day.

Vistara, on the other hand, operated Delhi-Mumbai-Ahmedabad-Delhi on the first day and Delhi-Jaipur-Delhi the next day to complete the five proving flights. These flights were conducted on December 4 and 5, 2014. Akasa Air operated their proving flights to Mumbai, Bengaluru, Ahmedabad and Delhi in July 2022.

Representatives of the regulator and airline staff are part of the proving flights. Airline staff occupy the seats as if they are normal passengers. The service standards are tested and situations could be simulated to check if the response is as per the manuals submitted by the airline to the regulator.

If no deficiencies are found, the path is clear for issuance of the AOP; otherwise it could be another round of proving flights for the airline. In a rare case, the airline may be asked to redraft its SOP and documentation and re-submit the same, after which the regulator may or may not have another round of proving flights.

It takes about a week for the grant of AOP after the proving flights are successfully conducted. Once the AOP is in hand, the airline can formally request for clearance of slots at airports and file a schedule with the DGCA, which when approved can be open for sale.

While the time between opening a flight for sale and the actual flight is very short, airlines are keen to get going rather than waiting for loads to build up. To aid this, airlines informally request for slots and night parking, and airports, too, have this agreed — only waiting for the formality of the AOP before signing off.

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Tail Note

Indian aviation is cut throat. Scheduled airlines in general and regional airlines in particular have seen a lot of head winds in the past. It is equally true that there remains a large potential for aviation as much as the country has been a graveyard. Nobody knows better than Fly91 whose aircraft has earlier operated by flybig and TruJet, one which has scaled down drastically and another which shut down.

The regional aviation scene was rejuvenated with the launch of RCS-UDAN, however Air Deccan, Air Odisha, Air Carnival, Air Costa are just some of the names pre and post UDAN which have gone belly up in India on the regional side. With a history of aviation careers for the entire top management of Fly91, they sure know the history of aviation in India. Its time to see what trick they have up their sleeve.

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