Much has been reported over the past two months concerning aviation issues in India. Safety, security and cost reductions have dominated the stories. The director general of the International Air Transport Association, Tony Tyler, this year has spoken about Indian aviation in three major speeches. His remarks have focused on the great potential of the market, and how we must overcome some of the major issues faced by the aviation community in India.
A number of safety issues remain daunting challenges for the country and its civil aviation authority. India’s fiercely competitive aviation sector will have to become more stable to support a quickly growing domestic demand for air transportation. There are more than 1.2 billion people in India, but only a very small percentage fly. As the demand for air travel increases, India will face growing pains related to the country’s poor airport and air traffic infrastructure. Take these two issues and add to them rapidly expanding air carriers and you potentially have the components for a very high operating risk.
As you know, the Foundation is very proactive in supporting runway safety. Basic items associated with runways such as adequate markings, signage and lighting need to be standardized and installed at all airports in India that support commercial and business air traffic. Incorrect runway rubber removal procedures exist at certain airports, which will make the runways slippery after rain. Correct classifications of runway length and clear areas need to be conducted and verified so as to not allow aircraft to land or take off on runways that will not support their size or performance.
More air service will mean more air traffic, which means that the infrastructure will have to be updated to meet demand. Air traffic control systems will need to be designed and control towers built; in addition, qualified personnel will be needed to run the system. Revenue from airport charges must be allocated to help improve the infrastructure and lessen the risk.
Commercial and business aircraft operators will need to exercise caution when they operate into areas of the country in which airports are not as well developed as some of the major cities. Fuel quality also could be an issue.
The government of India is working hard to ensure that the International Civil Aviation Organization’s standards and recommended practices are being followed. However, if there is poor oversight due to a lack of qualified personnel, then the infrastructure will not improve and the inherent high safety risk will still be there. There are some measures that are being worked on at this time, and hopefully they will help in resolving the major issues.