Monday, November 10, 2014

Government unveils draft aviation policy; may privatise Air India, Pawan Hans

The Economic Times

Published : Nov 10, 2014

The government on Monday announced a draft set of reforms for the aviation sector that includes plans to list airport operator Airports Authority of India (AAI) and helicopter service provider Pawan Hans Ltd, arguing that listing will not only improve efficiency but also instill transparency in their operations.

Making the announcement, civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju said views of the public will be sought on the draft before the government adopts the policy. "Listing improves transparency and efficiency," the minister said. "AAI will be corporatised and the listing on the stock exchanges would follow. Listing of Pawan Hans would also be undertaken with the same objective. Pawan Han's listing straightaway might make sense. For AAI also, that is possible."
Aviation secretary V Somasundaran said the ministry expects the process to conclude in six months. "After the policy is finalised, we need to get into discussions with the disinvestment ministry on various issues," Somasundaran said. "We hope to complete the process in six months.
The exercise will help bring transparency and greater professionalism in the boards of the two entities."
Analysts have welcomed the move to list the two entities. "It's a good move, as it will bring market discipline into these companies. It will not just unlock the potential of these two companies but also make them much more professional than today by providing more autonomy and professional management.
These companies should become much more professional to compete," said Dhiraj Mathur, leader-aerospace and defence at PwC India. On the suggestion to privatise national carrier Air India, Raju said it will be decided in due course of time. "If it could get listed, I would be the happiest person," the minister said. "An experts committee would be set up soon to develop a roadmap for Air India. All these suggestions have emerged.
We will have to take a conscious decision as it is a delicate matter," he said. The draft also talks of privatising only Jaipur and Ahmedabad airports and awarding management contracts for Kolkata and Chennai airports. One of the key initiatives of the draft policy is to develop helicopter aviation in the country. This is the first time that the country's aviation policy has categorised helicopter aviation separately from general aviation. The focus of the policy is to develop infrastructure to support helicopter operations.
The Business Aircraft Operators Association, a grouping of all business jet and helicopter operators, has termed this a step in the right direction. "We welcome the move to develop helicopter aviation, which will promote its greater use by industries to enable business. While we see a major thrust on remote connectivity in the draft, the role of small aircraft operators needs to be given due consideration," the association said in an email reply.

International airport in Bengaluru rated 'e-freight compliant' by IATA

Economic Times

Published : Nov 10, 2014

Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL) today said the Kempegowda International Airport here has been rated as an 'e-freight compliant' airport by the International Air Transport Association for its cargo operations. 

This project reiterates the airport's efforts in sustaining the long-term wellbeing of the environment, the company said in a release. 

The e-freight concept was launched by IATA in 2006 as part of the StB (simplifying the business) programme and became an industry-wide initiative, it added. 

BIAL said facilitated by IATA along with the endorsement of the members of the Global Air Cargo Advisory Group (GACAG), the project is an industry-wide initiative. 

It involves carriers, freight forwarders, ground handlers, shippers and customs authorities to effectively streamline processes, cut costs and improve speed and reliability, it stated. 

It said few key benefits of the implementation of the e-freight project are: improved process efficiency, higher productivity, better quality & reliability, improved cost savings and environment-friendly. 

By implementing e-freight international standards, Kempegowda International Airport, Bengaluru will benefit the industry by eliminating the use of paper in the air cargo supply chain, it said. 

Kempegowda International Airport, Bengaluru, is the first Airport in India to be declared as IATA e-freight compliant with the operationalisation & implementation of the e-freight process, it added. 

Friday, November 7, 2014

One of three runways of IGI airport could be shut

The Times of India

Published : Nov 07, 2014

One of the three runways of IGI Airport could be shut for commercial flights, a move that would spell a return to the pre-2008 days of air congestion when airplanes had to hover for long periods before being cleared to land.

Fearing a 9/11-type attack on prime central Delhi locations such as Parliament and President House, the defence and security establishment has sought the closure of IGIA's runway 27 for commercial aircraft.

The approach path of this runway, for aircraft coming to land from AIIMS side, is the closest to central Delhi. Therefore, the defence establishment wants only military and VVIP planes taking off and landing on this strip, said highly placed sources.

"This issue is now at the Cabinet Secretariat's level. A meeting is supposed to be held soon," said a source. In technical parlance, the security establishment wants to enhance the no-fly zone of central Delhi that is called VIP 89.

The enhanced no-fly zone will include areas very close to the final approach of runway 27.Even a slight deviation by an aircraft coming in to land on this strip from AIIMS side or taking off in that direction (when wind direction changes) zone could lead to scrambling of fighter jets.

Runaway 27 is one of the three airstrips in operation at IGIA — the other two being runway 28 and 29.

Civil aviation authorities are opposing the move tooth and nail, saying it would slam the brakes on IGIA's dream of becoming a big aviation hub. The airport's three runways have a combined capacity of handling 75 aircraft movements an hour. At present, IGIA witnesses an average of 950 flights a day.

"Most of the times, runway 27 (the shortest of the three runways) is used for arrivals. Runway 28 is used for departures as it is equidistant from both terminal 1B used by low cost carriers for domestic operations and terminal 3. Runway 29 is used for both arrivals and departures. Shutting down runway 27 will straightaway mean a one-third reduction in aircraft handling capacity," said a source.

The flyers, the shutdown would mean a return of the massive congestion at the airport with planes hovering in the air for a long time before landing and a similar wait on ground for aircraft to take off. Airlines used to levy a separate congestion charge in their fares on account of burning expensive jet fuel during hovering at busy airports like Delhi and Mumbai. The situation improved in 2008 when IGI got a third runway (29).

"Given the fact that Tata-AirAsia will soon come to Delhi and Tata-Singapore Airlines will use IGIA as their hub — apart from existing airlines (both Indian and foreign) adding flights to Delhi — there is no way the capital can do with just two runways. In fact, the air traffic services are finding ways to increase the combined aircraft handling capacity of 75 to cope with the increasing traffic," said a source.

Runway 27 becomes more crucial in the foggy winter months as IGIA's newest airstrip (29) suffers from very poor visibility due to its location. In those months, runway 28 and 27 handle a lion's share of air traffic. If one of them is made out of bounds for commercial aircraft, aviation authorities warn of serious chaos in Delhi for the average flyer.

SpiceJet suspends flights to Surat indefinitely after run-in with buffalo

Published : Nov 07, 2014
SpiceJet, the home-grown budget passenger carrier, on Friday said that it has suspended its services to Surat indefinitely, after one of its aircraft had a run-in with a stray animal at the city's airport on Thursday.
In a shocking security lapse, over 140 passengers of a Delhi-bound SpiceJet flight, SG 662, from Surat had a miraculous escape on Thursday when a stray buffalo ran onto the runway as the aircraft was about to take-off at around 7:25 pm.
There was utter confusion between the airport authorities and the SpiceJet pilot as to which stray animal was hit. However, sources at the Airport said that it was a stray buffalo and that the impact was very heavy. The aircraft sustained a considerable damage in its body. The pilot immediately stopped the craft midway and drove it in the parking area to check the damage.
"A Surat-to-Delhi SpiceJet aircraft, SG-622, carrying around 140 passengers excluding crew members on Thursday hit a buffalo during take-off roll at Surat airport," the airline's spokesperson Siddharth Kumar said.
"All passengers and crew members are safe and will be provided an alternative arrangement soon," Kumar said. Considering the stray-animal menace, SpiceJet has decided to suspend its services on Surat airport for an indefinite period. "Suspension will be effective as soon as possible," Kumar said.
Official sources said the Delhi-Surat-Delhi flight of SpiceJet arrived at about 6:30 pm on Thursday. The passengers from Delhi to Surat alighted at the airport and the passengers bound to Delhi boarded the flight. It took about an hour for the flight to get on the runway for takeoff to Delhi.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

MEHAIR to begin intra-state flights: Gujarat aviation minister Saurabh Patel

Economic Times

Published : Nov 05, 2014

For better intra-state air connectivity, the Gujarat government has selected a private airline to operate flights between different cities of the state, state civil aviation minister Saurabh Patel said today. 

According to a press release, Patel said that Maritime Energy Heli Air Services (MEHAIR) has been awarded a contract to operate services between various cities in Gujarat. 

Initially, the company would start flights to cities like Ahmedabad, Surat, Jamnagar, Bhavnagar, Bhuj, Kandla, Keshod, Porbandar and Rajkot, Patel said. 

"Within two months, the service will be operational in the state. State owned Gujarat State Aviation Infrastructure Company floated a tender earlier and selected MEHAIR to operate the service in Gujarat. It will help buisnessmen and other citizens reach their destinations quickly," Patel said. 

For the regional airline service, the company would deploy two aircrafts with a seat capacities ranging from nine to 19 passengers each, the release said. 

In the coming days, a timetable of flights would be released by the company.

MEHAIR has selected Ahmedabad and Surat to park its aircraft, Patel said.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Domestic air traffic rises over 26.3 per cent in Sept

Published : Nov 04, 2014
India's domestic air traffic grew at a record pace of over 26 per cent in September compared to the same month last year with low air fares stimulating the travel demand, IATA said on Tuesday.
Indian traffic "spiked 26.3 per cent in September compared to a year ago", showed the latest data released by International Air Transport Association (IATA).
It attributed this growth, which was several times that of 7.6 per cent recorded in August, to market stimulation measures by the Indian carriers which continued to offer low fares on the domestic sectors.
"Whereas previous improvements in growth rates potentially were attributable to revived confidence over the new business- supportive government, the strong increase in September was owing to market stimulation measures introduced by carriers," IATA said as it released the September air traffic figures.
On international air travel, the IATA figures showed Asia Pacific airlines reported a demand growth of 4.8 per cent compared to a year ago.
"Although this is a weaker rise than August, the recent trend has been positive and reflects better demand conditions in the region, including stronger trade activity that encourages business travel," it said.
The overall global passenger traffic results for September showed demand growth of 5.3 per cent over September last year.
"This continues the positive growth trend for passenger demand even though the performance was slightly below the August year-over-year rise of 6.3 per cent," the IATA study said.
However, IATA Director General and CEO Tony Tyler said though the fall in oil prices was "good news for an industry that spends a third of its operating budget on fuel", its full impact would "only be realized over time because of a time lag built into jet fuel pricing".

Monday, November 3, 2014

US FAA team to visit India to audit aviation safety mechanism

The Economic Times
Published : 02 Nov, 2014
A US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) team would arrive here next month to carry out a fresh audit of India'saviation safety mechanism, which was downgraded almost a year ago, rekindling hopes of its restoration to the topmost category status. 

Official sources said that FAA has decided to start a fresh audit of safety standards from December 8 and will review the work done by its Indian counterpart, Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), to resolve the problems. The audit is likely to go on for about a week. 

The American regulator had downgraded India from Category I to Category II under its International Aviation Safety Assessment programme, after its audits in India revealed deficiencies on over 30 crucial issues relating to various aspects of safety standards, including shortage of officials to carry out engineering and flight checks. 

After the January 31 downgrade, DGCA had sought a fresh audit of its safety oversight mechanism in July after taking a number of steps to meet the deficiencies. 

It has put in place a series of new rules and procedures and recruited skilled manpower to carry out aviation safety surveillance. 

Following this, DGCA chief Prabhat Kumar visited the US and briefed FAA on the progress made for resolving the problems identified. 

As a fallout of the FAA downgrade, the European Union Air Safety Committee (EUASC) had also expressed some concerns although it did not take any punitive action. 

To update them about the developments since the January FAA action and the steps taken, a four-member DGCA team led by Joint Director General J S Rawat would visit Brussels next week to hold discussions. 

Operations by Indian air carriers to and from Europe are monitored by EUASC through their Safety Assessment of Foreign Aircraft programme. 

Among the steps DGCA has taken are the recruitment of 56 new Flight Operations Inspectors out of a total of 75 that are required, with most of them joining their duties this month itself. The remaining ones, too, would be inducted this month, the sources said. 

The downgrade not only barred Air India and Jet Airways - the only two Indian airlines that operate to the US - from expanding their operations in that country and their codeshare arrangements with US airlines, but also subjected their planes to additional checks at US airports. 

FAA's Category-II rating put India in a group of 16 such countries, including Bangladesh, Ghana, Indonesia, the Philippines and Nicaragua. 

The sword of downgrade had been hanging over DGCA since 2009, when FAA had expressed serious concern over gross under- staffing. Immediately thereafter, several remedial measures were implemented and the Union Cabinet had decided to recruit over 500 additional staff for the regulator.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

India’s aviation downgrade by US FAA set to be revoked soon

Published : Nov 01,2014

In what could be seen as the first positive impact of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the United States on the Indian aviation sector, India’s embarrassing downgrade by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) earlier this year could be revoked, with the FAA team slated to carry out another inspection on December 8 this year.

This also comes in the backdrop of a three-member team visiting Brussels in the first week of November for a meeting with officials of the EU Air Safety Committee to discuss measures taken by the Indian aviation regulator, Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), to improve its performance after the FAA downgrade.

Finding regulatory oversight to be inadequate, the FAA had downgraded India from Category 1 to Category 2 under its International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) programme on January 31 earlier this year. The move has barred Air India and Jet Airways — the only two Indian airlines that operate to the US — from expanding their operations in the US and impacted codeshare arrangements with their American counterparts.
The DGCA needed to recruit 20 officials – chief flight operations inspectors (CFOI) — to deal with the staff shortage pertaining to Air India and Jet Airways. To improve it’s overall safety record, however, it needed to recruit 75 CFOIs.

“We have already recruited 56 new inspectors, of which 39 have already joined work, and the rest will join by next week. Applications are under process for rest of the 16 positions; and all 75 positions would be filled by November 16,” a senior DGCA official told The Indian Express.
While operations by Indian air carriers to and from EU are closely monitored through their Safety Assessment of Foreign Aircraft programme (SAFA), the FAA’s downgrade essentially meant that the DGCA was below par in meeting standards in technical expertise, trained manpower and maintenance records of air safety. It did not have skilled technical staff in the organisation.

“The FAA downgrade has a cascading effect, and the EU had raised concerns over the downgrade and the measures taken by the DGCA to better its performance. A DGCA team headed by Joint Director General Lalit Gupta will visit Brussels in the first week of November for a meeting with officials of the EU Air Safety Committee to discuss the measures taken,” an official said.

A Category 2 rating by the FAA has made India one of the 16 countries out of a total of 88 that have been assessed under IASA; the 16 include Bangladesh, Ghana, Indonesia, the Philippines and Nicaragua.