ICAO pulls up DGCA for not introducing licensing system for ATCOs
The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has pulled up Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) for not putting in place a licence system for air traffic controllers (ATCOs) in India ever after six years of its recommendation.
A five-member ICAO team which conducted an audit in November 2017 to assess whether the DGCA’s regulations conformed with its norms, found that the Indian safety regulator had not complied with a recommendation to introduce licensing system for ATCOs.
The Montreal-based ICAO is a specialized agency of the United Nations which was set up in 1944 to promote the safe and orderly development of international civil aviation throughout the world.
The non-compliance can downgrade India’s ranking in aviation safety which could prevent it from launching more flights to countries such as US, though not necessarily.
“What we may or may not report with respect to a safety oversight audit mission is governed by the same MOU which all States have agreed to respective of these visits,” Anthony Philbin, chief of communications, ICAO told HT in an email.
In 2015, India’s score on effective implementation of licensing process was 89.47% on ICAO’s website whereas the global index was 72.72%. Experts believe that the November 2017 audit might bring India’s percentage down.
The purpose of licensing ATCOs is to ensure safety and security in the operation of civil aviation.
“ICAO audit team expressed dissatisfaction and asked DGCA to comply with its norms urgently,” said a source in DGCA.
It contradicts the aviation ministry’s official stand, released a day after the audit on November 17, 2017 which said, “As per preliminary feedback, the audit team was satisfied with the safety system put in place by the safety regulator.”
A senior official from the DGCA, requesting anonymity, told HT, “The DGCA had initiated the process to issue license to ATCOs in 2012 but the aviation ministry had a contrary view. It felt that ATCOs are the employees of Airport Authority of India, a government undertaking. So it’s not required as government has put in place strict mechanism for ensuring aviation security.”
On March 3, 2012, the ministry had made a provision in the Aircraft Rules for the mandatory licensing of ATCOs, but licences were not issued. On May 1, 2017 it inserted a clause that government employees “may be engaged in provision of air traffic services without possessing an air traffic controller’s licence.”
When contacted, civil aviation ministry’s spokesperson Usha Padhee asked HT to get in touch with BS Bhullar, director general of civil aviation.
Bullar initially said that he would respond after the Parliament session but he didn’t respond to subsequent calls and messages.
ICAO conducts Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme under which it gives protocol questions to DGCA and then verifies the response by inspecting documents and relevant files. Last year’s audit was in the areas of personal licensing, airworthiness, operations, legislation and organization.
“A significant safety concern (SSC) does not necessarily indicate a particular safety deficiency in the air navigation service providers, airlines (air operators), aircraft or aerodrome; but, rather, indicates that the State is not providing sufficient safety oversight to ensure the effective implementation of applicable ICAO Standards,” ICAO says in its website.