Saturday, November 10, 2018

‘Every capital needs a second airport’

Former chairman of the Airports Authority of India (AAI) VP Agrawal did his bachelor’s and master’s in engineering from IIT Roorkee. He has been a member on several committees relating to development and improvement of aviation-related infrastructure in the country besides being a director on the board of Airports Council International (ACI), an international body of airport operators.

In an interview to ABHIJEET ANAND, Agrawal pointed out the challenges before AAI and issues pertaining to air navigation. Primary among them is meeting the shortage of air traffic controllers and creating a separate entity for air navigation. Excerpts:

Q: In air safety ranking, India’s position is very low. What are the steps that can be taken to improve it in terms of airport infrastructure?

A: Unfortunately, India has low air safety ranking as per ICAO and FAA while we have all the reasons to be at the top of the safety ranking. We have very strong airport operators and air navigation services which are very progressive and serious about addressing any issue. Various safety auditing agencies and Standing Committee on Civil aviation have been repeatedly harping on autonomous status for DGCA while Ministry of Civil Aviation is vacillating on this issue.

DGCA also lacks trained manpower and stability at the top. It lacks capacity and capability to recruit adequate number of inspectors due to standard governmental procedural issues. It needs freedom to structure and restructure itself from functionality point of view and be bold for reporting and compliance. I feel being directly under government control it lacks transparency and force. In comparison, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is a respected and dreaded organisation in aviation.

All operational airports are licensed and periodic inspection is done to check any deviation. Deficiencies pointed out are taken care of with full seriousness. Problem is with some legacy issues, which are difficult to address though resolution is achieved through procedures. New airports do not have such issues as care is taken at the design stage itself. However, DGCA has mandated audit to be done by independent auditors, which can bring out hidden non-compliances. Airports having strong support systems are better equipped from the aviation safety point of view. Some legacy issues are overcome by introduction of operating procedures. In general, the attitude is to be fully compliant.
10/11/18 Abhijeet Anand/Statesman