The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced last week its finding that India’s civil aviation authority complies with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) safety standards, resulting in the restoration of India’s Category 1 rating under FAA’s International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) program.
Under the IASA program, the FAA evaluates the civil aviation authorities of foreign countries to determine whether or not each country’s authority complies with ICAO safety oversight standards. FAA issues a Category 1 rating when an aviation authority complies with critical elements of international oversight standards, and issues a Category 2 when a country’s aviation authority lacks the required legal structure for proper oversight of its carriers or is deficient in one or more critical areas of safety oversight, such as technical expertise or inspection procedures. The homeland air carriers of a Category 2 country are not permitted to commence new service to the U.S. using their own aircraft, or to initiate new codeshare service with U.S. carriers, until the rating is improved.
Although India achieved Category 1 status in 1997, FAA downgraded its rating to Category 2 in January 2014 following an IASA audit of India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) that uncovered safety compliance deficiencies, including insufficient training of safety officials and a shortage of flight operations inspectors. Once downgraded, Indian air carriers that were not currently serving the U.S. were barred from applying for authority to do so. Indian carriers already serving the U.S. when the rating was lowered were permitted to continue operations at current levels under heightened FAA scrutiny, but could not add any new frequencies or routes.
The DGCA worked with the FAA over the past fourteen months to implement corrective actions, culminating in a successful IASA audit last month and the restoration of its Category 1 rating. Indian carriers that wish to initiate service to the U.S. may now apply for authority to do so, and Indian carriers that already serve the U.S. market, such as Air India and Jet Airways, can begin to expand service to the U.S.