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ICAO sending team to India to review if ATCO oversight is being met

Two months after it audited India’s aviation sector, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is once again sending a team back to examine whether the oversight requirement of air traffic controllers (ATCO) is being complied with.

The move comes after the ICAO audited Indian aviation under its universal safety oversight audit program back in November. The audit inspected areas of personnel licensing, airworthiness, operations, legislation and organization of aviation agencies.

“As per preliminary feedback given by the audit team to ICAO headquarters, they want to further understand the regulatory framework in place for oversight of ATCOs.

“A two-member ICAO team is likely to visit India this month to ascertain that the requirements for ATCOs are being met.

“The visit may also involve visiting a facility of Airports Authority of India (AAI, ATC’s parent organization) in this regard. The inputs collected during this visit would go into ICAO’s report which will be made available to India for appropriate action,” disclosed a top aviation ministry official.

Sources say that the ICAO’s concern stems from the fact that AAI, which the parent organization of ATC, would be issuing licenses for ATCOs.

The move is akin to an airline giving out licenses to its own pilots.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) issues pilot licenses and professionals licensed by this independent regulator can then work for airlines.

During its last audit in 2015, the ICAO had concerns regarding the country’s shortage of ATCOs.

“At that time, we were short by about 700 to 800 controllers. Since then we have hired 1,200 controllers and currently have 3,071 controllers, adequate for the current requirement.

“In addition, 67 ATCOs have been given offer letters who will be joining us shortly. So the issue is not about shortage of controllers and has to be something else,” senior ATC official said.

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