Govt to review rules governing air charters, NSOPs

New Delhi: In a bid to make general aviation viable, government has decided to review various rules governing air charters and non-scheduled operations and take steps to improve infrastructure and other facilities keeping their interests in mind.

The decision was taken at a recent meeting which Civil Aviation Secretary Ashok Lavasa and other top officials had with business aviation operators here.

The meeting on Monday came in the backdrop of  aviation regulator DGCA considering allowing non-scheduled air operators (NSOPs) and air charter firms to convert to scheduled operators to fly on routes not touched by the existing scheduled airlines, in order to promote air travel to unconnected destinations.

“It was a very good meeting and the authorities were  very positive about the issues we raised,” Rohit Kapur, President of Business Aircraft Operators Association (BAOA), told PTI after the meeting.

As the government wants to promote air connectivity in unconnected areas, he said the Civil Aviation Ministry officials “sought our views on all issues affecting general aviation and how to make it a viable business model.”

The meeting, chaired by Lavasa and attended among others by DGCA chief Prabhat Kumar and top officials of the Airports Authority of India (AAI), decided to set up a committee to review all rules and regulations affecting general aviation and recommend amendments, if need be, official sources said.

There are about 130 NSOPs which are currently registered with the DGCA.

The NSOP representatives pointed towards problems of infrastructure, with the AAI officials saying they would keep the interests of general aviation in mind in future planning of airports.

Critical issues ranging from airport charges to ground handling and use of lounges, which are not regulated, were also raised by the air charter representatives at the meeting, the sources said.

The general aviation operators also sought a separate safety management system for general aviation, different from the ones for scheduled airlines, as was a worldwide practice, they said, adding the operators suggested that International Standard for Business Aircraft Operations which is followed globally should be adhered to.

While the committee would expeditiously go into the entire gamut of issues raised at this meeting, a follow-up meeting is likely to be held in the middle of August, the sources said.

The DGCA, which is working on a draft rule to grant scheduled operator’s permit to NSOPs, is also considering a major relief for the charter firms that they would not attract customs duty for importing aircraft.

They would be also be allowed to have codeshare with existing scheduled airlines or with other such NSOPs, official sources had said earlier.

The proposal to allow NSOPs to be converted into scheduled commuter or shuttle services has been recently moved by the aviation regulator DGCA to encourage air connectivity in and out of Tier-II and Tier-III cities, they said.

It would give NSOPs the right to publish flight schedules and put flights on routes not served by existing scheduled airlines, with the sources saying they would have to operate to at least one uncharted route if they want to convert to a scheduled carrier.

To give effect to the proposal, Section 134-A of the 1934 Aircraft Act, which is an elaborate set of rules governing NSOP operations, would have to be amended, they said.

While scheduled airlines operate flights as per schedules drawn up for several months or even years and are committed to flying during these periods on these routes, an NSOP or a charter operates irregularly and may be planned a short time before a flight. The NSOPs have also to be assured of a full load of passengers.

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Free Press Journal