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India: ICAO calls out DGCA for not complying with recommendation to introduce licensing system for ATCOs

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has taken to task the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) for not establishing a license system for air traffic controllers (ATCOs) in India even after six years after it issued its recommendation.

The five-man ICAO team that conducted the audit in November of last year uncovered the lapse.

The non-compliance carries with it potential consequences such as the downgrading of India’s aviation ranking. This can affect India’s ability to launch more flights to other countries.

“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,” relayed Anthony Philbin, ICAO’s Chief of Communications.

In 2015, India’s scored 89.47% on its effective implementation of licensing process while the global index was just at 72.72%. Experts say that the results of the November 2017 audit might chop India’s percentage down a notch.

The purpose of licensing ATCOs is to guarantee safety and security in the operation of civil aviation.

“ICAO audit team expressed dissatisfaction and asked DGCA to comply with its norms urgently,” a source in DGCA divulged.

Curiously, ICAO’s alleged dissatisfaction contradicts the claim of an aviation ministry official who a day after the audit was completed, revealed

“As per preliminary feedback, the audit team was satisfied with the safety system put in place by the safety regulator.”

A DGCA senior official, who asked not to be named, added:

“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 made a provision in the Aircraft Rules for the mandatory licensing of ATCOs, but licenses were not issued.

On May 1, 2017 it slipped in a clause that government employees “may be engaged in provision of air traffic services without possessing an air traffic controller’s license.”

ICAO conducts Universal Safety Oversight Audit Program wherein it provides protocol questions to DGCA and then authenticates the response by examining documents and relevant files.

Last year’s audit was done in the areas of personal licensing, airworthiness, operations, legislation and organization.

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