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IndiGo, SpiceJet aircraft came face to face at Delhi Airport: Human error, says AAI

New Delhi: So the government has now confirmed it was ATCO (Air Traffic Control Officer) error which lead to a scare at the Delhi International Airport yesterday, when two aircraft allegedly came “face to face” and pilots of both had to apply brakes. The ATCOs are overworked, said a source, as not enough of them are available at any given time. He also said the concerned ATCO has now been de-rostered and future course of action will be clear after aviation regulator DGCA completes its enquiry into the incident. This source went on to clarify that at no time was the life of passengers aboard the two aircraft in any danger and that this was an instance of human error on a day when fog delays had anyway made more work for ATCOs. In fact, the SpiceJet flight which came close to the IndiGo aircraft had been holding departure for a long time due to low visibility.

In a rare statement, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) – which houses ATC function – said this evening that human error lead to a traffic conflict situation but there was no risk to passengers. “Indigo Airlines flight No 6E-769 from Lucknow to Delhi, after landing on runway-28 was taxing via Taxiway ‘E2’ for parking stand 12 as advised by ATC. Departing flight of SpiceJet Airlines No SG123 was not able to take-off from runway 28 due to poor visibility i.e. weather being below minima and therefore was waiting to return to Apron for parking.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Accordingly the Controller instructed SG123 to taxi via taxiway C” and hold short of the taxiway ‘E2’ so that Indigo flight 6E-769 and SpiceJet flight SG123 would not conflict with each other. The traffic density being high and complex, the Air Traffic Controller inadvertently gave instructions to SG123 (the SpiceJet flight) to continue taxi via E to stand 130, mixing its location with the location of SG263 (another SpiecJet flight) which was holding on another taxiway ‘E’ for departure. However, SG123 also did not question the incomplete ATC instruction for taxing. These human errors resulted into traffic conflict situation. However, both aircraft stopped at safe distance and there was no risk to aircraft or passengers.”

The AAI further asserted that continuous efforts are being made by it to offset such human errors through Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), recurrent training to the controllers and introducing technology. “It may be noted that safety record of ATC provided by Airports Authority of India at Indian airports has been very good and comparable to best in the world.”

Yesterday, there was another incident at Goa airport which also made headlines. Early morning, 9W 2374 Goa-Mumbai Jet Airways’ flight “veered off the runway while aligning for takeoff”, the airline tweeted. It later said 12 passengers had sustained injuries and still later, it said all but five have been discharged. This incident made Goa’s Dabolim airport unoperational for a few hours.

A regulatory source had told Firstpost yesterday that the Goa incident is being treated as an accident and a team from Air Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) will reach Goa by the evening to begin inquiries. This person also said a preliminary idea about what caused the aircraft to turn 180 degrees will be there only by Thursday. And Civil Aviation MInister A Gajapathi Raju tweeted that “thorough time-bound investigation and corrective action shall be ensured. Action will also be taken in case there is violation of procedures”.

The government knows that overworked ATCOs and the ‘human error’ factor could prove costly for aviation safety. Remember, India was downgraded by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of the United States in 2014 for failing to have enough safety personnel and a restoration of the rating took many months.

The Air Traffic Control (ATC) is still short staffed. Sources tell us the manpower need is 3600 personnel and only about 2900 have been recruited till now. “These positions are being filled,”said an AAI official. A short staffed ATC apart, this story from Bloomberg quotes data from India’s safety regulator DGCA to say that air safety incidents which prompted regulatory action reached 280 this year till August, beating the 275 all of last year. It went on to predict that “At this pace, the number may rise to more than 400 by the end of 2016, making it the worst in three years for aviation safety”.

India is one of the fastest growing aviation markets across the globe and any increase in safety related incidents is obviously a cause for worry. DGCA officials say there is no cause for worry and incidents sometimes happen due to the “human” factor. They also add that the country is following all internationally mandated safety protocols.

Earlier this month, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and her party TMC had created a furore by alleging that an IndiGo flight carrying the CM was not allowed priority landing at Kolkata airport despite the pilots seeking emergency landing due to a fuel shortage. This was stoutly denied by the airline, which said there was probably a miscommunication between the flight crew and the ATC about how much fuel the flight was left with. Instead of seeking an explanation from the ATC personnel, aviation regulator DGCA grounded IndiGo pilots in this case.

According to data provided by MoS Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha in Lok Sabha earlier this month, there were 409 safety violations by the crew of scheduled, non-scheduled and general aviation aircraft in the last three years.

First Published On : Dec 28, 2016 18:57 IST

Air safety incidents at Goa and Delhi airport; 2 pilots suspended

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>It was a day of miraculous escape for air passengers as two major accidents were averted on Tuesday. The first incident pertained to a Goa-Mumbai Jet flight which skidded off at the Goa airport on early morning resulting in 12 people getting injured. The flying licence of the two pilots was suspended and a probe by Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) of the Civil Aviation Ministry was launched soon after the incident. Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju said a thorough time-bound investigation and corrective action shall be ensured.The second incident happened at national capital’s Indira Gandhi International Airport when an IndiGo and a SpiceJet aircraft came dangerously close to each other on the runway, allegedly because of bad weather and due to ‘miscommunication’ with the Air Traffic Control (ATC). Both incidents raised questions on India’s air safety record which is obviously a cause of worry as the country is one of the fastest growing aviation market.A three-member team of AAIB rushed to Goa for inspection of the spot of accident, sources in the Ministry said. “Prima facie the runway accident appears to be the pilot’s fault. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has withdrawn the flying privileges of the two pilots, including the Commander, pending the initial outcome of the probe,” a source at DGCA said. Officials in AAIB were of the same opinion. They said that in all ‘probability’ the accident took place because of the pilot’s fault, adding that the preliminary findings on the accident are likely to be submitted in a week’s time.The Jet Airways flight 9W 2374 with 161 people onboard veered off the runway at Dabolim airport in Goa while aligning for take-off. The incident took place at 5 am when the Boeing 737 aircraft turned a full 360 degrees and its nose touched the soft land while taxiing for take off early on Tuesday in Goa airport. The Jet Airways flight had arrived from Dubai and was heading to Mumbai. There was panic among the passengers and a few passengers suffered injuries even during the evacuation process. Some passengers had to be rushed to the local hospital and five of the 12 injured passengers were hospitalised till late evening.Sources in Indian Navy, which manages the Dabolim airport, said its prompt response in rescuing passengers prevented a ‘catastrophe’. The airport, which is located in the Navy facility INS Hansa in Vasco town, was closed down for a while, impacting movements of other flights and causing some flight diversions.The incident at Delhi’s IGI airport took place in the afternoon when an IndiGo flight had just arrived from Lucknow with 160 passengers and the Spicejet flight with 187 on board was about to take off for Hyderabad . The two aircraft came face-to-face and almost collided with each other, sources said. Officials from ATC, on condition of anonymity, blamed poor visibility for the situation. They said haze was particularly intense on Tuesday. 72 flights were delayed that day because of fog. However, officials from Delhi International Airport Limited — which manages the Delhi airport — rejected ATC’s charge and said the problem occurred because of miscommunication from ATC. IndiGo as well as SpiceJet confirmed that both planes saw each other coming from opposite directions but both airlines denied that there was any risk to the passengers.

Civil Aviation Minister Raju: Biometric systems for passengers at airports are a good idea

New Delhi: Fliers may soon be able to use biometric details for security checks at airports as the government works on putting in place such systems after receiving ‘good feedback’ for a pilot project.

Giving strong indications, Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju said that having biometric systems for passengers at airports appear to be a good idea. The innovative idea, close on the heels of authorities doing away with tagging requirement of hand baggages at select airports, comes at a time when efforts are being made to ensure that aviation security procedures are more efficient and less intrusive. “Biometric access was experimented at Hyderabad (airport).

The feedback was good… Biometric system is appearing to be a good system security-wise,” Raju told PTI in an interview.

Without much fanfare, authorities have carried out a short duration pilot project using biometric system at Hyderabad international airport recently. The exact details on how it is used could not be immediately ascertained.

File photo of A Gagapathy Raju. PIB

File photo of Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju. PIB

When asked whether the project for biometric systems would be rolled out at various airports, Raju said a framework has been put up for the authorities concerned. “Modernisation is a continuous process and they will keep at it. I am not at BCAS or DGCA… We have to give them the policy frame (work). That is what we have done and we are working,” the minister said.

Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) is responsible for security of the sector while Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) is the sectoral regulator. Asserting that “safety and security” of the aviation sector can never be compromised, the minister said efforts on the cyber security front is a continuous process and keeps evolving.

“(With regard to) cyber security, what was acceptable a decade ago is not acceptable a decade later,” he noted. Airports Authority of India (AAI) has awarded a contract worth over Rs 110 crore to public sector undertaking BECIL for providing biometric access control system at 43 aerodromes.

This contract basically pertains to access for employees through biometric systems. As part of efforts to ensure hassle-free movement of air passengers, the trial run of non-stamping of baggage tag has started at various airports, including Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Kolkata.

On the initiative, Raju said it would be gradually extended to other airports. “We took time to convince our people…, world over, it is happening. On an experimental basis, they have started it in the country. There is no earthly reason why it should fail. That is why I think it will slowly go to all other airports,” he said.

Striking a cautious note, the minister said BCAS should also be comfortable in implementing the initiative. “Our security guys, the BCAS should be comfortable giving it. Like, if we keep overruling them, it does not make sense. So we need to take them along,” he noted.

First Published On : Dec 23, 2016 19:37 IST

NGT slaps fine of Rs 50,000 on airlines dumping human waste from airplanes…no, really

New Delhi: Human waste being splattered on houses from airplanes while landing, on Monday led the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to slap a fine of Rs 50,000 on the airline whose aircraft empties toilet tanks on air.

The NGT directed aviation regulator DGCA to issue a circular to all airlines, whose planes are involved, to pay Rs 50,000 as environmental compensation.

A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Swatanter Kumar passed a slew of directions while disposing of a plea of a retired army officer alleging dumping of human excreta by aircraft over residential areas near the IGI Airport here.

Normally, the waste in the aircraft tanks is disposed of by ground handling personnel once the plane lands. However, there are cases where lavatory leaks occur in the air.

The tribunal asked the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to issue circular to all ground handling services and airlines to ensure that they do not release waste from human waste tanks while landing or anywhere near the terminals of the IGI Airport.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

“DGCA shall also issue directions that aircraft on landing shall be subjected to surprise inspection to see that human waste tanks are not empty. If any aircraft is found to be violating such circular or (their) tanks are found empty on landing, they shall be subjected to environment compensation of Rs 50,000 per default,” the bench said.

The direction came on the plea of Lt Gen (Retd) Satwant Singh Dahiya who has sought action against the airlines and levy of hefty fines on them for endangering the health of residents, terming their act as a violation of the ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’.

While issuing directions, the green panel also said it was “surprised” to note the stand taken by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) that on analysing the samples taken from the petitioner’s house, it could be ascertained that it was excreta but its source could not be known.

“We are surprised to note the stand of CPCB to the extent of coliform and the kind of splashes created on the houses of the petitioner as well as others clearly demonstrate that it was human excreta,” the bench said.

It added that the amount collected shall be deposited with CPCB for using it for environment protection and a quarterly report shall also be submitted by DGCA before it.

DGCA was also asked by the tribunal to set up a helpline so that similar complaints can be addressed and the helpline number, as well as email address, be kept in public domain.

During the hearing, DGCA told the bench it has issued a circular to constitute a committee to investigate the matter.

The NGT had earlier slapped a cost of Rs 5,000 on the Environment Ministry and the Ministry of Civil Aviation for their failure to file inspection report on the plea.

It had also directed CPCB to depute a senior environmental engineer to inspect the petitioner’s house and check the existence of human excreta on its walls and if excreta was found, samples should be collected for analysis and the report placed before the tribunal.

In his petition, Vasant Enclave resident Dahiya had sought the creation of a 24-hour helpline for immediate reporting of such incidents and a monitoring mechanism to check that no aircraft drops “human soil or excreta” while landing.

The Ministry had opposed the argument and said plane toilets stored the waste in special tanks which are normally disposed of by ground crews once the plane lands. However, aviation officials acknowledge that lavatory leaks can occur in the air at times.

First Published On : Dec 21, 2016 11:03 IST

Cyclone Vardah: Chennai limps back to normalcy; flights resume

Chennai: A day after Cyclone ‘Vardah’ ripped through Chennai, the city presented a scene of devastation with thousands of uprooted trees, broken billboards and snapped telephone and power cables besides low-lying areas reporting waterlogging. Flight operations resumed on Tuesday morning in the storm-hit city which was limping back to normalcy.

Cyclone Vardah hit Chennai really hard. PTICyclone Vardah hit Chennai really hard. PTI

Cyclone Vardah hit Chennai really hard. PTI

The storm, which was the most intense to have hit the Tamil Nadu capital in two decades and left four persons dead, snapped communication lines, flattened homes, and threw into disarry rail, road and air traffic as it crossed the coast here yesterday. However, with the rains having abated since morning, people came out on the streets and some of them queued up at roadside tea stalls. Office-goers were seen waiting at bus stops and railway stations with few services being operated.

Southern Railway said skeletal services resumed in the MMC, Sulurpettah/Arakkonam section while that on the busy Tambaram-Chengalpattu route were yet to be operated. Flight operations, which were suspended at the Chennai airport, have resumed. “Flight operations have resumed at Chennai airport today morning,” Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju tweeted. Operations at the airport were suspended yesterday due to gusty winds and rainfall. Many flights were either cancelled or diverted to other destinations.

In many areas power was yet to restored as uprooted trees had fallen on power lines in the wake of the squally winds that accompanied heavy rains in many parts of the city and surroundings.

Both official machinery and residents themselves were seen clearing fallen trees. Civic workers used hand-held battery-operated wood cutters to remove hundreds of uprooted trees lying on the roads. People made a beeline to shops and supermarkets to stock supplies including candles which were selling like hot cakes.

They were also seen stocking up adequate quantity of drinking water, available in containers as well as bottles. Water logging was reported in low-lying areas in three affected districts of Kancheepuram, Thiruvallur and Chennai and efforts were on to pump it out. Harried denizens said they had not experienced such a cyclonic storm even as they recalled last year’s deluge in these districts. Thousands of people were evacuated from low-lying areas as roaring wind clocking speed of 100 km an hour uprooted trees, tore off hoardings and toppled cars, on Monday.

First Published On : Dec 13, 2016 12:12 IST

Mamata Banerjee flight row: Pilots’ suspension grossly unfair, only mollifies West Bengal CM

The suspension of six pilots, two each from indigo, Spicejet and Air India for allegedly endangering their flights as they hovered over Kolkata waiting for landing clearance makes no sense. Spurred by the accusations of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee who was on one of them and believes this whole exercise was designed to have her killed, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) decided to investigate the issue.With ana alacrity it seldom displays.

On the face of it all three aircrafts were low on fuel and had asked for clearance or else they were to prepare to move to an alternate airport.

There is a fixed protocol in every commercial or scheduled flight. You go from point A to point B with thirty minutes ‘go around’ or ‘hover’ fuel over point B and enough fuel after that to reach your alternate airport (in this case, Bhubaneshwar) and hover there for thirty minutes.

If any of these parameters have been broken, then by all means charge the pilots and the ground crew and the dispatch for negligence.

But if they have not been broken and the fuel was sufficient to get to the alternative with enough to spare then becoming all holier than thou because a chief minister gets paranoid borders on the ridiculous.

Mamata Banerjee. File photo. ReutersMamata Banerjee. File photo. Reuters

Mamata Banerjee. File photo. Reuters

We have to understand that when you make the pilot community jittery and take punitive action like this you are more likely to compromise air safety that if you go off half-cocked into an investigation that requires a probe of what went on between the three flights and the ATC where there might have been a possible misunderstanding but you do not create such a furor and take these unilateral actions when there is no evidence of the rules being broken.

At no stage were the aircrafts in danger or passenger safety compromised and it seems that all this controversy is predicated to the Banerjee’s impatience of her flight landing being delayed.

In fact she should be asked why she would scare 170 passengers and why an airline should be maligned by her causing distress and concern to future passengers.
When you accuse airlines of negligence, it has far reaching effects. Add to that a finger pointing at the pilots for not carrying out their duty and the carrier is literally placed in the dock.

You cannot seriously imagine that the crew colluded to endanger a flight complement of 170 passengers and place their lives at risk as an part of a conspiracy to eliminate Banerjee.

The more incredible part is how protected these politicians are that they can make such outrageous statements and get away with it. Any other normal passenger making such claims would either be taken away in a straitjacket or be placed into custody pending an inquiry.

Once having said it, Banerjee should be asked to explain exactly how and why she has arrived at this conclusion based on the flimsy perception that her flight was slightly delayed.

Imagine, if you will, if all of us on delayed flights were to see the a hand in glove plot what utter chaos there would be in the skies.

Seeing that no pilot on any of these flights called an emergency, hit the transponder 7700 code or said anything more than alerting ground control to facts on the fuel situation suspension for doing their job seems untenable.

After all, they had enough fuel to break the parameters and hover over Kolkata for another ninety minutes.

First Published On : Dec 7, 2016 11:27 IST

3 airline employees held at IGIA for stealing liquor bottles

Sun, 4 Dec 2016-09:40pm , New Delhi , PTI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Three airline ground handling staffers working at the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) in New Delhi have been apprehended for allegedly stealing liquor bottles from the registered baggage of a flier.Officials said the incident was reported on Saturday noon when an on-duty CISF personnel detected suspicious activity of the three employees in the terminal area, on the CCTV surveillance system.Upon interception, they said two liquor bottles were recovered from their possession which the trio, identified as E Moses, J Jolly and C Mehroliya, had allegedly taken out from the baggage of a Bhubaneswar-bound traveller. They said the airport entry passes of the three had been cancelled and the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) has been informed for further action against them.

Army’s Cheetah chopper crashes near Sukna in Bengal; 3 army officers killed, one critical

Three army officers lost their lives on Wednesday when a Cheetah helicopter of the Indian Army crashed near Sukna region in Bengal. One Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) has been critically injured in the accident, according to CNN-News 18.

The Cheetah helicopter was reportedly on a routine sortie when, at around 11:45 am, the helicopter crashed while returning to the camp’s helipad at Sukna, near Silgirui, Army officials said.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

While three officers died on the spot, a JCO was evacuated and admitted to a hospital in a critical condition. The army’s 33 Corps is based at Sukna and all aircraft of the Army are run by Army Aviation Corps.

A Court of Inquiry has been ordered into the incident.

The reason behind the crash is not clear. However, there had earlier been reports of army officers’ families demanding phasing out of these archaic machines.

According to a report in India Today, the wives of several army personnel had demanded that the Chetak and Cheetah helicopters of the Army’s aviation unit be phased out as they have been involved in numerous incidents. The report, published in November 2014, stated that the choppers had been involved in over 190 crashes and had claimed 294 lives till the end of 2014, and were involved in three to four Army aviation crashes every year on an average.

Another report by NDTV from August this year states that the Indian Air Force has already ceased to use these archaic machines in its Siachen Pioneers unit, citing its dated technology.

This is not the first incident when an army aviation unit has crashed. A Cheetah chopper was involved in a similar accident in October 2014 in Bareilly district of Uttar Pradesh, wherein three officers lost their lives, according to a report in News 18

In Febreuary 2015 too, a Cheetah chopper crashed  in Nagaland’s Dimapur district. However, the two pilots and an army official on board fortunately escaped unhurt, according to NDTV.

According to another report in The Indian Express, “the Army has for long been pressing for the need to replace these ‘60s helicopters.” The reports further states that in 2007, the then defence minister AK Antony proposed to withdraw Chetak and Cheetah helicopters from the Army, stating that the vintage choppers are “inadequate for the present operational requirement of the Indian Army”.

However, as this report in NDTV points out, since then, the army has scrapped tenders to procure new helicopters at least three times. The last effort to procure new choppers was dropped in August 2015, as army again scrapped a tender worth Rs 6,000 crore to procure 197 light utility helicopters from foreign vendors. The army then decided to allow domestic manufacturers to offer a replacement of these helicopters.

First Published On : Nov 30, 2016 14:26 IST

IndiGo, KLM flights involved in near miss incident

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>An IndiGo Airbus A320 plane and a KLM Boeing dreamliner aircraft were involved in a near miss incident earlier this month, prompting the Indian authorities to order a probe considering it as a serious incident.IndiGo’s Airbus A 320 plane was flying from the national capital to Bengaluru while KLM’s Boeing 787 aircraft was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, as per the website of Aviation Safety Network.The Aircraft Accidents Investigation Bureau (AAIB) has launched an investigation into the matter.Citing preliminary data from the Indian authorities, BEA said IndiGo aircraft came in close proximity with KLM plane as the required standard lateral and vertical (radar) separation was reduced. The vertical separation was reduced to 200 feet, it added.The incident happened on November 2 in the Indian airspace, according to French aviation regulator BEA. Details about the number of passengers could not be ascertained.Near miss incidents are generally described as airprox (aircraft proximity). It refers to a situation where in the opinion of a pilot or Air Traffic Services personnel, the distance between the planes as well as their relative positions and speed have been such that the safety of the aircraft involved may have been compromised.

Air Navigation Services may go out of AAI soon

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The aviation sector is likely to see a major shake-up soon with Air Navigation Services (ANS), a critical source of revenue for airport operator Airports Authority of India (AAI), being made a separate entity following a recommendation by a government-appointed panel.The two-member expert committee, comprising former Civil Aviation Secretary Ashok Chawla and former Directorate General of Civil Aviation Satinder Singh, submitted its report recommending autonomy for ANS to the ministry on Friday, sources said.The recommendation, which is likely to be implemented as part of the ministry’s reform agenda, will impact AAI in a big way as almost one-fifth of its revenue comes from ANS.According to AAI’s annual report for 2014-15, Rs 2,355 crore of its total revenue of Rs.9,284 crore came from ANS. This includes charges for route navigation facilities, terminal navigation and instrument landing. Moreover, an international flight pays a fee for Air Traffic Control (ATC) services, an arm of ANS, each time it uses India’s airspace.Aviation analysts say ANS needs specialised attention to manage growing air traffic, expected to rise further in years to come. “ANS should have been made independent of AAI long ago. The recommendations of the expert panel should be implemented. People at AAI, who have been running ANS, are not even qualified to do so. Making ANS a separate entity would give undivided, focussed attention to augmentation, upgradation and improvement of communication network surveillance and air traffic management, which is much needed,” said civil aviation expert Captain Mohan Ranganathan.He said that the AAI could suffer the same fate as Air India if it didn’t take tough measures to manage its finances. “If ANS becomes a separate entity, AAI will have to get its act together.”Many of India’s busiest airports, including Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru — which generate about 60 per cent of AAI’s revenue from airport operations — are run by private operators. AAI’s share is not even half the total revenue generated at these airports. There are also plans of leasing out more airports to private entrepreneurs.The idea to make ANS a separate and independent unit was first mooted in 1970, but there was not much movement. Things might be different now with the government in the mood for reforms, ministry sources saidCivil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapati Raju had announced soon after taking charge that he had plans to corporatise AAI and list it on the stock exchange — a move designed to take off only after hiving off ANS. Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha has also been been hinting at policy, organisational and infrastructural changes in the aviation sector in the backdrop of rising domestic air traffic.While making its recommendation, the committee, which was set up in June, has placed reliance on guidelines laid down by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and on countries like Canada, Australia and New Zealand, where airport management and airspace management are handled by separate bodies.”Various options such as whether the new entity should be an autonomous organisation or a corporate entity wholly owned by the government or a subsidiary of AAI were explored. But the committee concluded that giving an autonomous structure to ANS would fetch the best results,” an official said.An autonomous ANS would be able to take decisions swiftly, without, for instance, having to wait for approval from AAI or the ministry for purchasing equipment. The move would aid ANS in finding solutions to its staff crunch – there are only 3,000 ATCOs of the total sanctioned strength of 3,890 — and shortage of advanced equipment as it will no longer be dependent.The coffersApart from ANS, AAI earns a major chunk of its revenue from airport operations and also earns some revenue from cargo operations. In 2014-2015, AAI earned Rs 2,449 crore and Rs 196 crore from airport operations and cargo, respectively.
During January-August 2016, domestic air passenger traffic rose 23.14 per cent – from 52.36 million to 64.47 million.
Air India is surviving on a Rs 30,000-crore government bailout package and had a debt of Rs 51,000 crore as on March 31, 2016,

Rlys now berths 44 cr passengers

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Railways, which is just days away from the Diwali passenger rush— among the densest anywhere in the world, has managed to keep some part of its promise of a confirmed ticket for every passenger by 2020. It has managed to increase the number of confirmed berths available annually on its trains from 37.1 crore in 2014 to 44.7 crore in 2016. This is a jump of over 20 per cent. To put matters into perspective, the 44.7 crore figure is bigger than the population of all countries in the world other than China and India.The huge jump in berths has come about because of the increase in number of trains run over the past couple of years. Statistics available with the railway ministry show that over the last two years, it ran a whopping 70,000 special trains. Moreover, during this period it introduced 308 new trains, extended 99 trains, increased the frequency per week (fpw) of 188 trains and permanently added 1,610 coaches to various trains. The Railways ran a little over 2.5 lakh extra coach trips in the past two years, ministry data shows.According to data from the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report of June this year, between 2010 to 2015, the total number of passengers carried by the Railways was 3,054 crore of which 829 crore were non-suburban passengers. This comes to around 165.8 crore per year, though a sizable part of this number would be travelling in unreserved coaches, said officials.Good intentions apart, it is not going to be a smooth ride for the ‘confirmed seat on demand’ mission, agreed officials, because as the economy grows and along with it income, newer passengers would want to travel in higher—sleeper and air-conditioned—classes. A study of the passengers carried over one kilometre (called PKM in railway operation terminology) shows that for every 100 passengers carried over a kilometre, 25 passengers travel by sleeper class, and 65 per cent by unreserved coaches. The rest travel by higher classes like First or Executive chair car.Moreover, the recently-announced Regional Air-Connectivity Scheme (RACS), announced by the Civil Aviation Ministry could take over a decade before it starts reducing railway passenger numbers for the better. “The number of seats available on a daily basis on the Railways to the ‘Y’ cities is so much higher than what any regional connectivity airline can match at least in the next few years,” explained a railway official.Under government classifications, Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru, Ahmedabad Hyderabad and Pune are ‘X’ cities, the rest divided into Y and smaller urban agglomerations into Z categories.

Govt in ‘mission mode’ to expand aviation sector: PM Modi

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Accusing previous governments of having “no vision” for aviation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said his government is working in a “mission mode” for expansion of the sector and has put in place the country’s first integrated policy to tap the potential of small cities. He was speaking after dedicating the new integrated terminal building of the airport in Vadodara, which is now the second green airport of the country after Kochi.Modi noted that India in the near future would probably become the third country in the world in terms of airport activity benchmarks with more middle-class families aspiring to travel by air.The Prime Minister said the country is very huge and “if you think only 80 to 100 airports not enough, then we are trying to create hurdles in the country’s growth”. He said the the country’s development can take new dimensions if the tier-2 and tier-3 cities are bought on the aviation map and noted that government was making efforts to revive the large number of non-functional airstrips and airports in the country.”That is why to promote this, the government brought out a new regional connectivity scheme under which people can travel with airfares of only Rs 2,500 for up to 500 kms distance,” he said.Attacking the previous governments, he said, “Earlier airports were set up, planes would fly but the country did not have an aviation policy. How to take the sector forward in next five or ten years and take care of its and passengers’ needs, what should be done for common people, there was no vision in place earlier. It was just moving,” he said.”After the new NDA government came to power, for the first time since independence it formulated a new aviation policy for the country… we are working in a mission mode for expansion,” he said.The PM said the new aviation policy will take care of the consumers’ needs and the growth of the sector. “It is estimated that within five years, the situation in India would be such that the airports in the country would have as much footfall in a year as America’s total population. You can well imagine how this sector is growing. India in the near future would probably become the third country in the world in terms of airport activity benchmarks. This will help increase employment opportunities and would spur economic activity,” he said.According to International Airport Transport Association, India will add 322 million new passengers out of the total 442 million passengers by 2035. It has also forecast that the country will become the third largest aviation market in the world displacing the UK by 2026. Last fiscal, the country registered a growth of 21.6 per cent in the number of air travellers.Spread in an area of 17,500 sq mt, the new integrated terminal has been built at a cost of Rs 160 crore. It has been designed to handle 700 passengers, including international fliers, per hour with 18 check-in counters, which would help in a seamless boarding process. It took about seven years to complete the project as the then Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel had laid the foundation stone in 2009.The 8,100-meter-long runway of the Vadodra airport can handle small and narrow body aircraft such as Airbus 320 and Boeing 737s. Besides national carrier Air India, private airlines likes IndiGo and Jet aiways are operating from This airport will be zero discharge, waste to wealth, energy saving and environment friendly, the PM said.Claiming that his government had taken a number of steps to promote the aviation sector, Modi said, “I am happy that after the formation of the new NDA government, two airports in the country have become a part of the green movement.” He said when such iconic buildings come up, the common people get encouraged to use economically viable and environment-friendly technology.”Connectivity plays an important role in the world today, both physical and digital connectivity is required and if we need highways, we also need I-ways (Information ways). Similarly, air traffic is also needed. Air services are required in a big way for growth of tourism in the country. Better air connectivity means more tourists and this means better economic growth. There are immense possibility for tourism growth in India. Keeping that in view, this government has decided to promote the aviation sector,” he said.Referring to the first Railway University to be set up here, Modi said it will impact the next century. “The government has taken a very important decision whose impact will be felt for nearly 100 years. And the decision is that country’s first railway university will be constructed in Vadodara,” Modi said addressing public after inaugurating the terminal.The PM said the varsity will help in carrying out innovation and modernisation for the Indian Railways. Earlier, Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajpathi Raju said since the NDA government came to power, air passengers traffic has “grown by over 20 per cent”.

Parrikar rejects Swaraj Abhiyan charge, terms Rafale best deal

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Thursday asserted the recently-signed Euro 7.878 billion-deal for 36 Rafale fighter jets was the best ever offered to any country, rejecting Swaraj Abhiyan’s Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav’s allegation that India paid double the price.Parrikar, however, refused to comment on the duo’s allegation that BJP parliamentarian Varun Gandhi was “honey trapped” into leaking defence secrets, a charge stoutly denied by the leader. “How much does it cost to level allegation?” an angry Parrikar retorted when asked about the charge levelled by Swaraj Abhiyan. “Rafale is the best deal that we have managed. It was because Prime Minister of India and President of France agreed that we have this deal which has not been offered to any other country,” Parrikar said.Earlier in the day, Bhushan told a press conference, “… contrary to previous announcements of getting 126 aircraft, the government bought 36 aircraft, paying double the price for individual units. It certainly appears to be the case that something is fishy.” He said despite having knowledge of all these things, the BJP government did not blacklist Thales, the company that sold scam-tainted Scorpene submarines, as Dassault acquired it.Dassault Aviation has 25.3 per cent stake in Thales.Parrikar said nothing has been proved in the alleged Scorpene leak and hence the case for banning any firm does not arise. India recently signed a deal with Dassault for 36 Rafale aircraft. Varun has already denied the charge, saying he has not met middleman Abhishek Verma, to whom he has been accused of having leaked defence secrets, since 2004.He has threatened to file a defamation suit against Bhushan and Yadav over the charges.

Air India’s maiden operational profit: Why PM Modi shouldn’t pat himself on the back yet

Air India has reported a modest operating profit of Rs 105 crore during the previous financial year ending 2015-16. This is the first time in a decade that the airline has used the word “profit” while reporting annual results and also the first time since the two erstwhile airlines were merged to form the present entity. The operational profit also comes two years ahead of the target as per Air India’s turnaround plan under which it will receive about Rs 30,000 crore in dole from the government.

For all the firsts associated with this operational profit, it is a significant milestone for the ailing national carrier. In fact, Air India’s feat found a mention in Prime Minister Modi’s Independence Day speech this year. But the PM must not be in a hurry to pat himself on the back just yet.

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First, this is operational profit and the airline returned a significant net loss during the year under review – in fact, with Rs 3,587 crore, this comes to about Rs 10 crore net loss every single day. Secondly, lower fuel prices served as one of the main reasons for this happy state of affairs. If these begin to rise, a modest operational profit will quickly evaporate.

Civil Aviation minister A Gajapathi Raju had earlier informed Lok Sabha in the Budget Session that the airline could turn in an operational profit of Rs 8 crore in the last fiscal. However, this figure has now improved to Rs 105 crore, against an operational loss of Rs 2,636 crore during 2014-15. Earnings before Interest, Depreciation Tax and Amortisation improved to Rs 3,587 crore from Rs 1,436 crore during 14-15.

Air India’s total revenues stood at Rs 20,526 crore against Rs 20,613 crore in 2014-15. The airline carried 18 million passengers during 2015-16, a growth of 6.6 percent. Sources also indicated that the net loss after interest stood at Rs 3,837 crore for FY16 against Rs 5,859 crore in the previous year. And herein lies the crux of all that is wrong with cheering the operational profit that Air India has declared proudly.

Besides, as per this story in the Economic Times, the airline has again missed the target for a modest operational profit for the first quarter of the current fiscal and posted a loss.

Here are five reasons to show why the first full year of operational profit is a significant milestone but the airline is not out of the woods yet:

Fuel saved the blushes: As per the data given in Parliament during the Monsoon Session, Air India saved close to 9 percent or about Rs 720 crore on fuel costs alone in 2015-16. As per results declared last week, the operating cost per ASKM (available seat kilometer) came down from Rs 4.59 in 2014-15 to Rs 3.88 in 2015-16 or by 15.5 percent due to decline in fuel prices. Fuel expenses may have accounted for about 30 percent of the airline’s total expenses during the fiscal.

So, not many cost initiatives, but savings from benign global crude prices saved it the blushes in 2015-16. This means when global crude prices do begin to rise, Air India’s operating profit will also get squeezed significantly unless it takes a giant stride in improving other operational parameters. The airline flew at least a million more revenue passengers last fiscal at 18 million versus 16.88 million in 2014-15.

Losses pile up: According to data provided in the Parliament, Air India’s losses stood at Rs 5,490.16 crore, Rs 6,279.6 crore and Rs 5,859.91 crore in 2012-13, 2013-14 and 2014-15, respectively. For FY16, the net loss was close to Rs 4,000 crore. While fuel accounts for the single largest cost head, employee expenses also account for close to 10 percent of total costs.

In other words, 10 paise out of every rupee spent by AI is used to pay employee salaries. This, when the airline has already hived off two subsidiaries – one for ground handling and another for engineering – and also halved the total manpower. Besides this, the airline is also on a hiring spree too, taking in more cabin and cockpit crew.

Debt worries remain: Air India accounts for the largest share of Indian airlines’ total debt pile. The airline was sitting on borrowings of over Rs 51,000 crore till March 31, 2015. MoS Aviation Mahesh Sharma said in Parliament in March that Air India’s total debt burden of Rs 51,367.07 crore includes Rs 22,574.09 crore outstanding on account of aircraft loans.

As per the Turnaround Plan (TAP), the equity infusion by the Government into Air India also includes Rs 18,929 crore for the repayment of the government-guaranteed loans/interests till FY 2020-21. Air India’s interest bill alone for FY16 is estimated to be around Rs 3,700 crore! Since government is the owner of Air India, the airline seems to have a perpetual cushion to fall back on, something no private airline can boast of.

So a modest operating profit is good news but provides little relief on the airline’s actual financials. Now, among the desperate measures Air India is working upon to reduce the debt is an offer of equity to lenders, something it has already asked SBI Caps to explore. The question is, why would any lender want a minority equity in a the government-owned airline in lieu of bringing in funds to retire debt, when the airline continues to bleed?

Privatisation: This government has blown hot and cold over any move to consider offloading the white elephant called Air India. Sources tell us there is stiff opposition from the top management of the airline over any such move. This can only spell disaster for the airline, which has been guzzling public money at an alarming rate. This piece shows why Chairman and MD Ashwani Lohani thinks selling off Air India is a bad idea and instead the airline should be allowed to operate in a “level playing field”.

Last year, the independent directors on the board of the airline had met minister Raju to convince him about the need to privatise Air India. In March this year, the heavy industries ministry had created a flutter by classifying Air India as “sick”, reviving a discussion on whether the government should get Air India off its hands as its financial situation is not improving despite continuous equity support.

At that time, airline officials had said that there has been some talk of initiating the process of privatisation by starting with two businesses which were earlier spun off from the airline – engineering and ground handling. They had said then that Air India Express could also be considered under this scheme.

A proposal to recommend privatisation of Air India has been discussed informally at several board meetings of the airline – a subject usually taken by its independent directors – but no formal resolution has been drafted in this regard. Now that AI is operationally profitable, time is ripe for at least a discussion over privatisation.

Image problem: Air India suffers from an image problem due to service standards, frequent delays and engineering issues. According to DGCA data for August, Air India continued to have top ranking in the complaints’ register among scheduled national airlines with 31,682 passengers affected due to various issues like denied boarding, delays and cancelled flights on the domestic sector.

Though the airline has less than half the share of the domestic market compared to IndiGo, the number of people affected due to flight delays was almost five times that of IndiGo passengers similarly affected. For its operational performance and therefore revenues to improve, these image issues need to be settled.

Threshold noise levels at airports reduced

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The country’s existing busy airports will now have to follow stricter noise pollution norms and airport operators will have to model noise for upcoming airports. The Union Ministry for Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has come out with draft noise standards for airports, reducing the existing threshold for noise limits. The draft notification has also issued guidelines on taking into account noise pollution during the time of environment clearances.The revised standards come in the wake of National Green Tribunal’s recent order to monitor noise limits at the Delhi International Airport. Residents of Vasant Kunj, Bijwasan and Indian Spinal Injuries Centre had moved to the NGT alleging noise violations and its impact on health. Following NGT’s orders, civil aviation ministry ordered the country’s busy airports to monitor noise levels.Presently, airports follow the Noise (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000, which categorises airports as ‘industrial zones’, where the noise limits are 75 decibels (dB) during the day and 70 dB during the night.But, for existing busy airports such as Mumbai and New Delhi, MoEFCC’s new draft standards has brought down the limits to 70 dB for day and 65 dB for night. For ‘other existing airports and upcoming or new airports’, the standards are 65dB for daytime and 60dB for night time. For airport operations and noise standards, day time is categorised as the period between 6am and 10pm, while night time is categorised between 10pm and 6am. The specified limits exclude the aircraft landing and take-off noise as that breaches the 100dB mark. Aircrafts generate maximum noise during take-offs and landing and the noise levels depend on the kind of engines they use.Experts though said that already, implementation of existing standards is not practical, and even the new standards will be difficult to enforce. “It is difficult to implement these conditions and impose flying restrictions to reduce noise as most commercial flights that land in the night account for valuable business,” said Dr Satish Pande, Director, Ela Foundation and ornithologist. Ela foundation has worked with the Mumbai airport operator GKV to study bird-hits.Besides revising the noise threshold, the ministry’s draft notification has said that new airports should undertake noise modeling and also consult with the Union Ministry of Urban Development to ensure proper land-use planning. “Any upcoming airports noise modeling shall be conducted by airport operators and results should be discussed during environment clearance with MoEFCC to ensure the proper land use planning and controlled developments by MoUD and concerned state development authorities, with regards to residential, institutions and commercial facilities and other sensitive areas in the airport noise zone,” the notification said.The notification has also asked the Directorate General of Civil Aviation to review the noise standards every three years. Furthermore, all airports will have to make public the noise mapping details of current and future aircraft movement on the websites of Union Ministry of Civil Aviation, MoUD and MoEFCC.In addition to regulation of noise, the notification has advocated for developing sound resistance in buildings and constructions. “Development authorities shall mandate all the building, facilities and projects of residential, hospital and institutional facilities to take noise mitigation measures through proper buildings design and construction and material use.”

Cabinet clears ratification of Paris climate deal, opposes capping emissions from aviation sector

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Union Cabinet on Wednesday cleared ratification of the historic Paris climate agreement fulfilling the first and most important domestic step in ratification of the deal. The cabinet approval comes after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced in Kozhikode on Sunday that India will ratify the deal on Gandhi Jayanti, October 2.Briefing the press here on Wednesday union minister for human resources and development Prakash Javadekar said, “India has been a big player in climate negotiations and with the ratification, India will be playing decisive part in bring the Paris agreement into force. India’s push will help the deal’s ratification soon and it will become irreversible course of action for humankind. It is a common resolve to keep the temperature rise below two degree Celsius.”The Paris deal will come into effect in post-2020 and will be enforced after at least 55 countries, that contribute to 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions, officially ratify it. So far, 61 countries, accounting for 48% of global greenhouse gas emissions, have ratified the deal. With India ratifying the deal on October 2, the numbers will go up to 51% as India accounts for 4.1% of global greenhouse gas emissions, pushing the Paris deal closer to coming into effect. The European Union, which accounts for 12.10% of global greenhouse gas emissions is expected to join the deal in the first week of October, taking the Paris deal beyond the 55% global emissions threshold.Following cabinet clearance, India will now have to deposit the legal instrument of ratification at the United Nations Headquarters legally join the deal. “Since October 2 is a Sunday, we have already requested the United Nations to keep its office open so that we can complete the remaining legal procedures,” Javadekar added.India’s decision to ratify the Paris deal before the next UN climate change conference in Marrakech, Morocco, was a climb down from its earlier stand where it had indicated that it will not join the deal before 2016. It had hedged ratification of the deal to leverage a seat in the Nuclear Suppliers Group. But, with strong indications that the European Union is set to join the deal in October, India seems to have changed its position to avoid getting left behind in the deal’s ratification on time. When dna asked Javadekar about the change in India’s stance, he said, “We had never declared a specific date for ratification of the Paris deal.”During Wednesday’s cabinet meeting, it was also decided that India will oppose the International Civil Aviation Oragnization (ICAO)’s proposal for carbon emission tax on the civil aviation sector. The ICAO is currently meeting in Montreal to reach a deal on capping emissions from the aviation sector. “During the Brazil, South Africa, India, China (BASIC) meeting earlier this year, we had reached a conclusion being developing economies, capping emissions from the aviation sector won’t be appropriate.” The global aviation industry accounts for 2% of carbon emissions globally.

French Defence Minister to arrive in Delhi tonight, Rafale deal to be signed tomorrow

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>French Defence Minister Jean Yves Le Drian will arrive in New Delhi on Thursday night to sign the Euro 7.8 billion deal on Friday for 36 Rafale jets which will come equipped with latest missiles and weapon system, giving IAF a cutting edge over arch rival Pakistan. The deal for the aircraft, the first fighter jet deal in 20 years, will be signed on Friday in the presence of Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and Drian, sources in Defence Ministry said. Also present will be the chief executive officers (CEOs) of top French companies, including Dassault Aviation, the makers of Rafale.The deal comes with a saving of nearly 750 million Euros than the one struck during the previous UPA government, which was scrapped by the Narendra Modi government, besides a 50% offset clause. These combat aircraft, delivery of which will start in 36 months and will be completed in 66 months from the date the contract is inked, come equipped with state-of-the-art missiles like ‘Meteor’ and ‘Scalp’ that will give IAF a capability that had been sorely missing in its arsenal.The features that make the Rafale a strategic weapon in the hands of IAF is its Beyond Visual Range (BVR) Meteor air-to-air missile with a range in excess of 150 km. Its integration on the Rafale jets will mean IAF can hit targets inside both Pakistan and across the northern and eastern borders while staying within India’s territorial boundary. Pakistan at present has only a BVR with 80 km range.During the Kargil war, India had used a BVR of 50 km range while Pakistan had none. However, Pakistan later acquired 80-km-range BVR, but now with ‘Meteor’ the balance of power in the air space has again tilted in India’s favour.’Scalp’, a long-range air-to-ground cruise missile with a range in excess of 300 km also gives IAF an edge over its adversaries. Sources said the “vanilla price” of just the 36 aircraft is about 3.42 billion Euros. The armaments cost about 710 million Euros while Indian specific changes, including integration of Israeli helmet-mounted displays, will cost 1,700 million Euros. The rest of the cost includes spare parts and maintenance.

Rafale deal cleared for 36 fighter jets, to be signed on Friday

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> The government has cleared the much anticipated deal with France for 36 Rafale fighter jets which will cost 7.878 billion Euros (approx 58761 thousand crore) and will be signed on Friday in the presence of French Defence Minister Jean Yves Le Drian.Defence sources said that deal for the aircraft, the first fighter jet deal in 20 years, comes with a saving of nearly 750 million Euros than the UPA era one, which was scrapped by the Narendra Modi government, besides a 50 per cent offset clause. This means business worth at least three billion Euros for Indian companies, both big and small, and generating hundreds of jobs in India through offsets.The Rafale fighter jets, deliveries of which will start in 36 months and finished in 66 months from the date contract is inked, comes equipped with state-of-the-art missiles like Meteor and Scalp that will give the IAF a capability that had been sorely missing in its arsenal. Sources said the government today formally cleared the Inter Governmental Agreement to be signed on Friday in the presence of Drian who arrives on Thursday evening along with CEOs of Dassault Aviation, Thales and MBDA and top government officials.The contract for the deal was already cleared by the Cabinet Committee on Security earlier. The price of the contract was fixed in May, sources said. Sources said the “vanila price” (just the 36 aircraft) is about 3.42 billion Euros. The armaments cost about 710 million Euros while Indian specific changes, including integration of Israeli helmet mounted displays, will cost 1700 million Euros. Rest of the cost include spare parts, maintenance among others. Besides other features that make the Rafale a strategic weapon in the hands of the IAF is the Beyond Visual Range Meteor air-to-air missile with a range in excess of 150 KM.Its integration on the Rafale jets will mean the IAF can hit targets inside both Pakistan and across the northern and eastern borders while still staying within India’s own territorial boundary.Pakistan currently has only a BVR with 80 km range. During the Kargil war, India used a BVR of 50 km while Pakistan had none. With Meteor, the balance of power in the air space has again tilted in India’s favour.Scalp, a long-range air-to-ground cruise missile with a range in excess of 300 km also gives the IAF an edge over its adversaries.The tough negotiations by the MoD-IAF team extracted many concessions and discounts from the French before arriving at a price that is almost 750 million Euros less than what was being quoted by the French side in January 2016. This was when the commercial negotiations gathered pace, almost seven months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced India’s intention to buy 36 Rafales off the shelf from France during his trip to Paris in April 2015. The French side had quoted a price of 8.6 billion Euros in January following which India refused to sign the contract. This forced both the countries to just sign a MoU and French President Francois Hollande’s announcing their intention to sign an IGA. To bring down the cost, the India asked French officials to calculate the deal on actual cost (Price as on today) plus European Inflation Indices.The Defence Ministry has capped the European Inflation Indices to maximum 3.5 per cent a year. In other words, if inflation Indices goes down, India will have to pay less. Even if it goes up India will not pay more than 3.5 per cent increase, sources said. After Dassault Aviation, makers of the Rafales, emerged as winners, the UPA government had agreed with French officials to calculate the price on the fixed cost formula that allowed the company to include additional price of 3.9 per cent inflation indices from day 1 of the deal.So, had the deal gone ahead, India would have ended up paying additional cost of inflation Indices (@3.9 per cent) which was already added at the initial negotiation itself. Moreover, there was confusion on the calculation of the basic price itself. In the original MMRCA proposal, 18 planes were to be manufactured in France and 108 in India in collaboration with the HAL.It was later discovered that the cost of 108 fighters would go up by about Rs 150 crore per plane since the labour man hours in India were 2.7 times higher than in France, raising questions about the French firm being the lowest bidder. Interestingly, then Defence Minister A K Antony had put down on file a remark that the negotiating team must come back to him before finalising the contract, creating more confusion for the negotiators.However, new current deal comes with several discounts, sources said. For instance, Dassault will have to ensure that at least 75 per cent of the entire fleet remains operational at any given time. This warranty is signed for the first five years. Despite several steps taken by the Defence Ministry over the last three years, 60 per cent of India’s frontline fighters, the Sukhoi-30 fleet, remains operational at any given time, up from the dismal 48 per cent earlier, sources said.Three other concessions include free training for nine IAF personnel, including three pilots besides additional guarantee for 60 hours of usage of training aircraft for Indian pilots and six months of free weapons storage without charge (in case the Indian infrastructure is not ready for storing the weapons).

Rafale deal: French Defence Minister Jean Yves Le Drian to arrive in India

New Delhi: French Defence Minister Jean Yves Le Drian is set to arrive in New Delhi on 22 September along with CEOs of Dassault Aviation, Thales and MBDA to seal the 7.87 billion Euros deal for 36 Rafale fighter jets.

Defence sources said if all goes well, the Inter Governmental Agreement (IGA) will be signed on 23 September. Government sources said the cost, offsets and service details have been finalised and work is currently being done on the IGA.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

A “working team” from France is already in town with their own translators are going through the contract, running into several thousand pages, with their Indian counterparts. The sources said that once the IGA is firmed up, the document will go to the Cabinet Committee on Security for final clearance.

The French Defence Minister will be arriving on the evening of September 22 along with CEOs of companies involved in the Rafale project, sources involved in the deal said. India has been able to save over Euro 590 million through tough price negotiations which began in January this year.

Though the deal could have been firmed up earlier, issues like pricing and offsets took time as India wanted a better contract. Following intervention by Prime Minister Narendra Modi late last year, France agreed for a 50 per cent offset clause.

This means creating business worth at least three billion Euros for Indian companies, both big and small, and generating hundreds of jobs in India through offsets. The delivery for the fighter aircraft is expected to begin in 2019, with an annual inflation capped at 3.5 percent.

The weapon systems, part of the deal, will also include the new-age beyond visual range missile ‘Meteor’, and Israeli helmet-mounted display. Last month, a report submitted by the team negotiating the Rafale deal with France was cleared by the Defence Ministry. The file was then sent to the Prime Minister’s Office for review and clearance.

The work on the IGA started after that, sources said. During his visit to France in April last year, the Prime Minister had announced that India would purchase 36 Rafale jets in a government-to-government contract.

Soon after the announcement, the Defence Ministry had scrapped a separate process that was on to purchase 126 Rafale fighter planes, built by French defence giant Dassault Aviation.

Andhra Pradesh to set up first private sector Light Combat Aircraft manufacturing unit

Vijayawada: A weapons integration facility to manufacture Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), said to be the first-of-its-kind in the country in the private sector, will be set up in West Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh at a total cost of Rs 2,135 crore.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Wem Technologies Private Limited is partnering with Lockheed Martin, the largest defence equipment manufacturer in the US, to set up this facility, Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu said.

“We have decided to allot 350 acres of land for this facility spread over Vatluru and Bhogapuram villages near Eluru in West Godavari district. In the first phase, they will invest Rs 635 crore and provide employment to 650 persons. In all, 2510 jobs will be created when the facility becomes fully operational,” Chandrababu told a press conference here last night.

Wem currently has orders worth Rs 560 crore on hand, he said.

Other details about the project or its Indian promoters are awaited.

Mid-air mishap averted after SpiceJet aircraft comes close to Emirates

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> A mid-air mishap was averted due to an auto generated warning after a SpiceJet aircraft came in close proximity of an overflying Emirates plane in the Indian airspace.The incident which occurred on August 11, involving SpiceJet Hyderabad flight from Chennai (SG 511) and Emirates’ Dubai-bound Brisbane flight (EK 433), is currently being investigated by the aviation regulator, DGCA sources said.Earlier this month, a mid-air collision between two IndiGo planes, carrying over 225 passengers and crew, was averted over Dhaka airspace after the pilot of one of the flights steered away his aircraft to a safe distance when they came perilously close to each other.According to sources, SpiceJet flight SG 511 was cleared for 34,000 ft and advised to standby to climb further.”However, SG 511 climbed above the permitted level without clearance. It was then asked to maintain 35,000 ft but the aircraft overshot by a 1,000 ft, a level that EK 433 was maintaining,” they said.This forced the Emirates flight to climb further and increase separation, with both the aircraft receiving TCAS alert, sources said.TCAS monitors the airspace around an aircraft for other aircraft equipped with a corresponding active transponder, independent of air-traffic control, and warns pilots of the presence of other transponder-equipped aircraft which may present a threat of mid-air collision (MAC).”Emirates can confirm that flight EK433 Brisbane to Dubai on August 11, whilst in Indian airspace, received indications of proximity traffic. The flight crew correctly followed the on board system guidance to remain clear, following which they reported the occurrence to Air Traffic Control.”At no time were passengers in any danger. The safety of our passengers and crew as always is our top priority,” Emirates said in a statement.However, according to SpiceJet sources, the ATC instructed it to climb and maintain 36,000 ft due to traffic at 37,000 level but “while passing flight level 35,000, ATC instructed the pilot to stop climb. By that time the aircraft had climbed to 35,400 feet. Our flight descended back to 35,000, and during which SpiceJet aircraft got descend resolution advisory.”Sources at the Directorate General of Civil Aviation said that the incident is being investigated and would soon be handed over to the Airprox Investigation Board (AIB).

Govt keen on regional connectivity, 10 to 15 airports to be activated next year: Gajapathi Raju

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Government was keen on regional connectivity and as part of its plan, 10-15 airports would be activated by the next year, Civil Aviation Minister P Ashok Gajapathi Raju on Sunday said.”The work on regional connectivity is in progress. We have developed a scheme for regional connectivity. There are 31 or 32 unconnected airports and we are planning to activate some of them and 10 or 15 airports may be activated by next year,” he told reporters here.Raju, who arrived here enroute to nearby Marugur to visit the ‘samadhi’ of a freedom fighter, said the country was recording the fastest growth in the civil aviation sector in the world.On cargo operations, he said there was good potential but the problem was several rates of taxes on fuel in different states.”The major operational cost 45% is fuel and tax problem is there. I have written addressing this to Chief Ministers of all the states,” he said.Highlighting various welfare schemes and initiatives of the NDA government, he said there was no corruption and scams in this regime.He said the Goods and Services Tax (GST) would lower the manufacturing cost and help consumers.

Spicejet denies aircraft fire or tyre burst, calls it landing gear problem

New Delhi: The right landing gear of a SpiceJet aircraft carrying 75 passengers onboard from New Delhi got overheated, causing some smoke while it landed at the Amritsar airport on Thursday evening.

Representational image. Image courtesy FlickrRepresentational image. Image courtesy Flickr

Representational image. Image courtesy Flickr

However, all passengers were deplaned safely, SpiceJet said.

There was, however, no fire or tyre burst, the airline clarified.

SpiceJet flight SG 2515 from Delhi to Amritsar carrying 75 passengers landed at Amritsar on 06:15 PM.

Engineer on ground saw smoke coming out from the right landing gear after flight landed at Amritsar airport, SpiceJet said in a statement.

Taking precautionary measure, the engineer used fire extinguisher on over heated landing gear, it said adding there
was no tyre burst or any fire.

The SpiceJet statement:

NO INCIDENT OF FIRE OR TYRE BURST HAS TAKEN PLACE in SpiceJet flight 2515 from Delhi to Amritsar carrying 75 passenger which landed at Amritsar on 06:15 PM. Engineer on ground saw smoke coming out from the right landing gear. Taking a precautionary measure he used fire extinguisher on over heated landing gear. All passengers on board are safe.

PTI

Will ensure safety of Indian airports, says Civil Aviation minister after Istanbul attack

Government is committed to ensure the safety of Indian airports and skies, Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju on Wednesday said as he expressed shock over the deadly terror attack at Istanbul airport.More than 36 people have been killed and hundreds injured in the terror attack at Ataturk airport in Istanbul.”I am deeply shocked and agitated at the terror attack on Istanbul Airport. We stand with Turkey and its citizens in their loss & grief,” Raju said in a tweet.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>He emphasised that the government is committed to ensure safety of airports in the country.”It’s our commitment that we will continue to ensure safety and security of Indian airports and skies,” he said.Ataturk airport is one of the busiest aerodromes in the world.

Maharaja meltdown: When Venkaiah Naidu had an epic rant on Twitter after Air India delay

Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu on Tuesday expressed his frustration over missing an important appointment after his Air India flight was delayed.In it’s statement, Air India said that the flight was delayed as the pilot was stuck in traffic jam”We deeply regret the inconvenience caused due to flight delay. The pilot was stuck in traffic jam, enquiry has been ordered.”<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapthi Raju responded to Venkaiah Naidu’s tweet by saying, MoS Civil Aviation Mahesh Sharma said:(With ANI inputs)

Tata patriarch’s ambitions a step closer as Indian skies open up

Officially at least, Ratan Tata, patriarch of one of India’s wealthiest business families, retired in late 2012. In reality, he has been a driving force behind Tata’s bet on airlines and a rare public campaign to open up the booming aviation sector.

Reuters

The $100 billion Tata group conglomerate is a major beneficiary of the decision last week to open up aviation in India, making it easier for start-ups to fly overseas sooner.

The decision is no panacea for Tata, whose airlines – Vistara and AirAsia India – have had a slow start in a competitive market dominated by IndiGo, owned by InterGlobe Aviation, and Etihad-backed Jet Airways, both of which opposed the rule change.

But it marks a victory for 78-year-old Ratan Tata, and ends more than two years of airlines lobbying, of Twitter rows and of frequent public statements from the usually circumspect steel-to-salt group.

“This was a David-and-Goliath kind of situation,” said a source close to Tata group. “There was huge lobbying from the other side.”

Ultimately, sources familiar with the talks said, it was Ratan Tata, a trained pilot, who was key to sealing the deal, capitalising on his clout.

In a message earlier this year, he called for ‘a new open market economy’ and said airlines lobbying against a rule change was “reminiscent of protectionist and monopolistic pressures by vested interests’ entities who seem to fear competition.”

A spokesman for Tata Sons, which promotes the group, denied Ratan Tata was directly involved, saying he had “nothing to do with operations or management of either of the airlines” after his retirement, and that views he expressed were personal.

Turbulent beginnings

Not that either of Tata’s two airline ventures – a low-cost carrier owned with Malaysia’s AirAsia Bhd and Vistara, a full-service carrier run with Singapore Airlines – is yet ready to fly overseas. Both have had turbulent starts.

Vistara initially focused on domestic business travellers, but had to reconfigure its aircraft after a year, to replace pricier seats with cheaper ones.

AirAsia underwent a management shake-up earlier this year.

Vistara’s share of India’s passenger air market is rising but is still just 2.5 percent after nearly 18 months in business. AirAsia’s share after two years has stagnated at about 2 percent, government data showed, compared with IndiGo, which has a 39 percent share, and Jet Airways with 19 percent.

But flying overseas is critical. It means higher profits and margins than in India’s cut-throat market dominated by low-cost carriers, and Vistara and AirAsia now aim to boost their fleet sizes within a year.

A Tata Sons spokeswoman said making profit can take several years and the group had a “clear road map”: “Aviation is a long gestation business sector.”

The new rules water down a requirement known as 5/20, which barred domestic airlines from flying overseas before being in operation for five years and having 20 aircraft.

Now they can fly overseas as long as they deploy 20 aircraft or 20 percent of total capacity in India, whichever is higher. Tata Sons and the two airlines said they would prefer the rules to be abolished altogether.

Tata’s re-entry

Tata group, a business empire stretching from Jaguar Land Rover and steel mills in Britain to salt pans and India’s cheapest car, has a long history in aviation.

J. R. D. Tata, the group chairman before Ratan Tata, became India’s first qualified pilot in 1929, and set up an airline that was later nationalised as state carrier Air India.

Under Ratan Tata, the group sought to snap up Air India in a privatisation process, later aborted.

Instead, even as current chairman Cyrus Mistry has sought to wind up some of Tata group’s more ambitious projects, Ratan Tata pulled the group back in with two joint ventures. For his critics, the intervention was too little, too late.

In 2013, a year after India liberalised foreign direct investment in aviation, Tata returned, first with AirAsia and then Vistara.

“India’s market has only just started and it could provide growth for global aviation for the next 10 or 15 years,” said Kapil Kaul, New Delhi-based chief executive of the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA) consultancy.

India is the world’s fastest-growing aviation market, clocking more than 20 percent growth last year, and CAPA expects domestic passenger travel to grow to 500 million by 2035 from 70 million in 2015.

Tata group is moving to capitalise on the win.

Vistara, which has 11 aircraft, had an original plan to scale up to 20 by June, 2018, but could speed that up.

“We do not rule out accelerating the deliveries or procuring more aircraft from leasing firms, manufacturers or, for that matter, from our parent Singapore Airlines also,” Vistara CEO Phee Teik Yeoh said in response to a query.

Yeoh said the company was reviewing its international plans.

AirAsia is in the process of ramping up its aircraft to 20 from six to meet the criteria, India CEO Amar Abrol said, adding that the airline lobbied hard for the removal of the 5/20 rule.

PM Modi’s FDI reform is as big as it comes, nothing to do with Raghuram Rajan

The opening up of foreign direct investment (FDI) through the automatic approval route in the range of 74-100 percent in several sectors, including defence, aviation, brownfield airports, food retailing, broadcast carriage, pharmaceuticals and private security agencies, is as big a reform as they come. India was the largest FDI destination in the world last year, and these relaxations will help India consolidate its position this year and in the future.

There are two reasons for this: Rexit and Fixit.

The uncharitable explanation for the flurry of changes is the government’s need to mute the deafening roar over Raghuram Rajan‘s impending exit from the Reserve Bank of India (Rexit), but this only explains ‎the timing of the announcements, not its rationale.

ReutersReuters

Reuters

When faced with the prospect of a loss of external confidence in India’s growth story, governments tend to become reformist: this happened in 1991, it happened in the Vajpayee’s government after the dotcom bust and US sanctions post-Pokharan 2, and it is happening now. External triggers help focus governments on the need for change.

However, the more important reason is revival of growth or Fixit – fixing the broken investment engine. FDI is the one investment engine available to revive the growth cycle, which has been ruined by the UPA that gave crony loans and saddled banks with impossible burdens of bad loans. With both India Inc and banks reeling under the pressure of bad loans, FDI is the obvious pick-me-up.

Of the four engines available to push up growth – government spending, private consumption, private investment and exports – only two are firing (the first two). Corporate investment is comatose, and exports are in steep decline as the external environment is weak.

FDI liberalisation will come as a booster dose to basic push being given by government spending to revive the investment cycle.

But don’t believe all this is about Rexit. Foreign investment has been the theme song of Narendra Modi’s government so far, which has been focused on strong external diplomacy, and on opening up India to foreign investment. The first major laws to pass were about FDI in insurance and pension funds. Then came the Japanese investment in the bullet train. The Gulf nations are also game – especially in aviation and refining. China would also have been willing, but is hampered by concerns over its antagonistic postures on security issues towards India. Its efforts to block our entry into the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group is one such roadblock to higher Chinese investment in India.

In 2015, India was the largest beneficiary of FDI (around $63 billion) in terms of investments announced, and this money should start flowing this year and the next. The current flurry of FDI relaxations are intended to ensure that this positive sentiment continues despite the exit of Rajan. The link between Mission Investment Fixit and Rexit is short-term.

Let’s take a quick look at what the various FDI relaxations will mean for India and growth.

FDI in aviation: The new policy allows 49 percent FDI through the automatic route, and 100 percent through the approval route. This has major implications. Since aviation is a low-margin business, only those with financial staying power and the right business model can survive. The recent return to profits by Jet, SpiceJet, GoAir and even Air India is mainly the result of lower oil prices. Only IndiGo has been consistently profitable since birth, thanks to its superior business model. The aviation business is steadily shifting towards two nodes – cash-rich Gulf airlines (Etihad, Emirates, Qatar, etc), and the East Asian airlines, which have superior service and often good business models. The chances are Indian civil aviation will increasingly be owned by foreign principals. Air India is a goner in this scenario – unless it is privatised quickly.

FDI in brownfield airports: India’s aviation is metro-oriented and many smaller airports are starved of investment, including state capitals in remote areas. The new aviation policy announced last week tries to address this problem by capping fares at Rs 2,500 for non-commercial routes below one hour’s flying distance, with viability gap funding available from the Centre and state. The 100 percent FDI now allowed in brownfield airports through the automatic route will enable regional and distant airports to operate as no-frills landing strips with foreign investment. India’s low-cost carriers will finally find low-cost airports to match their claims. Earlier, we had low-fare airlines, and not low-cost ones.

100 percent FDI in defence: This will be only through the approval route, not surprisingly, since it involves national security. This is the one area where Make in India has the best possibility of success, since defence production is typically driven not by competition, but technology and cost-plus strategies on products and equipment vital for defence. India currently imports so many defence items, that this ought to be the logical place to start to promote Make in India. Given the size of purchases, the government also has leverage in defence that it does not have in other industries.

Food retailing: 100 percent FDI in food will happen only through the approval route, but is potentially a game-changing idea. It could interest the Wal-Marts to enter into domestic sourcing of food items and help the farmer obtain a better price. The various online grocers can also find fresh funding, since food e-commerce is now open. Online grocers like Big Basket will need big investments and viable business models to succeed when the 800-pound gorillas of global commerce enter the picture. Amazon also seems to be interested in food retailing, and may invest in backend infrastructure. One can expect big bucks in this space.

Relaxation in pharma: 74 percent FDI will be allowed in brownfield pharma units through the automatic route, and 100 percent through the approval route. India has huge competitive advantages in generics, and also R&D. The relaxation of FDI rules will enable more medium-sized generics companies to be acquired by foreign MNCs, and also allow private equity players to fund pharma expansion projects. This is another big boost for Make in India beyond defence. Big pharma can buy into Indian generics companies to fend off competition from the likes of Sun Pharma, Dr Reddy’s, Cipla, Lupin and others.

Broadcast carriage: With 100 percent FDI allowed through the automatic route, major investments can be expected in cable networks, direct-to-home services, and mobile TV businesses, among others. This relaxation will complement the government’s Digital India strategy by increasing investments in broadband infrastructure and communications. Expansion of entertainment, education and ecommerce services will also increase demand for spectrum and optical fibre.

Single brand retail: Local sourcing norms have been waived for three years, with the possibility of extending this by another five years, enabling the likes of Apple to set up their stores in India. The idea is that at some point they will start local sourcing to keep some costs down.

The big takeout from this FDI policy is simple: India is finally abandoning its swadeshi mindset. One wonders why the government has not already abolished the Foreign Investment Promotion Board. It serves very little useful purpose now that FDI will be largely through the automatic route, and only those on the negative list will need government approvals.

Has the Modi govt’s big bang FDI reforms announcement shut his critics?

New Delhi: Did the Modi government time liberalisation of FDI caps across crucial sectors to lessen the impact of some other developments over the weekend? Namely, has the decision of the RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan to call it quits in September and not accept a second term played the part in today’s crucial FDI-related announcement? Analysts had been issuing dire warnings of a complete bloodbath in the equity and currency markets this morning, the first trading day after the Rajan bombshell. But some sensible decisions by the equity market players and then the FDI announcement queered the pitch. It is all about timing, surely.

Prime minister Narendra ModiPrime minister Narendra Modi

Prime minister Narendra Modi

That the government was keen to ease FDI caps across some sectors was known for some time but there was not even a whisper in the corridors of power about the wide sweep this reform would take. With one fell swoop, the Modi government seems to have shut up critics who carped on the lack of big bang reforms. This is as big a bang as it gets.

The Civil Aviation industry was one of the most surprised with the government’s largesse, since just last week it had seen the unveiling of the Civil Aviation Policy which quietly removed any reference to a hike in FDI caps for airlines, something that was very much a part of the policy draft. Sources in the know said there had been enough indications that FDI would be liberalised but the government did not want it to become part of the civil aviation policy document.

Though Prime Minister Modi held a crucial meeting of his top ministers this morning where the FDI decisions were taken, no one really had an inkling about the issues the ministers had deliberated upon. Commerce Minister Nirmala Seetharaman was running late for a pre-scheduled interaction with journalists at the Indian Women’s Press Corps this afternoon. When asked what held her up, the minister said that the Prime Minister was holding a meeting.

“He seeks views on different subjects” she said almost in a whisper when pressed further. When asked specifically about her reaction to governor Rajan’s exit and then her views on government planning to relax sourcing norms for Apple, she wisely parried. Seetharaman had just finished her interaction when the FDI announcement was made through a government press release.

Among the most significant changes to the FDI regime announced today is a relaxation in sourcing norms for single brand stores, which means Apple can breathe easy. Niti Ayong CEO Amitabh Kant said in a chat with CNBC-TV18 that Apple now will not have to comply with local sourcing norms for three years and then five more years, giving it an 8-year window. He said the phone maker need not apply afresh and its existing application will be considered for allowing relaxed local sourcing norms.

Here are the FDI announcements and their possible implications:

1) Single brand retail: Relaxed local sourcing norms up to three years and a relaxed sourcing regime for another five years for entities undertaking Single Brand Retail Trading of products having ‘state-of-art’ and ‘cutting edge’ technology. Apple suits this definition to the T, therefore making it the biggest beneficiary of this liberalisation. Kant said that there was a clear definition of what comprised ‘state-of-the-art’ and ‘cutting edge’ as a committee of Niti Ayog officials had specified these parameters. This should encourage local sourcing of high tech stuff in India.

2) Defence: Presently 49 percent FDI participation in the equity of a defence company under automatic route is allowed; FDI above 49% is permitted through government approval on case to case basis, wherever it is likely to result in access to modern and ‘state-of-the-art’ technology in the country. But now, foreign investment beyond 49 percent has been permitted through government approval route, in cases resulting in access to modern technology and the condition of access to ‘state-of-the-art’ technology has been done away with. This should encourage local defence manufacturing and increased supplies of locally manufactured goods to the government. Since the government still retains control over FDI beyond 49 percent by approval, it means local manufacturers of defence equipment need not worry, their interests would be protected as well.

3) Civil Aviation: 100 percent FDI under automatic route permitted in brownfield airport projects. For airlines, 100 percent FDI allowed now with FDI up to 49 percent permitted under the automatic route and beyond 49 percent through government approval. However, foreign airlines would continue to be allowed to invest in capital of Indian companies operating scheduled and non-scheduled air-transport services up to 49 percent of their paid up capital only.

On the face of it, it seems the government had left foreign airlines drooling over the prospect of owning Indian carriers but it is possible that by teaming up with sovereign funds or other investment arms of their own countries, foreign airlines are able to buy up a substantial chunk of an Indian airline or even an entire airline. If this happens, existing Indian airlines will have a chance to sell out in case the promoters want an exit, while it could also lead to powerful global airlines arriving in India to either setup an airline from scratch or buy out/partner an existing airline.

4) Pharma: Already, 100 percent FDI under automatic route is permitted in greenfield pharma and up to 100 percent under government approval in brownfield pharma companies. Now, up to 74% under the automatic route will be allowed in brownfield pharmaceuticals. This could increase investments in India’s pharma sector.

FDI caps have also been eased in food products made in India, broadcasting carriage services, private security agencies and animal husbandry sectors. The official release said measures undertaken by the government till now have resulted in increased FDI inflows at $55.46 billion in 2015-16 from $36.04 billion during 2013-14. This is the highest ever FDI inflow for a particular financial year. Will the latest move, liberalising the caps in nine sectors in all, raise this figure substantially for FY17? This remains to be seen.

FDI reforms push: Govt further opens up defence, pharma, aviation

In an apparent effort to divert the attention and calm down investor sentiment after Raghurajan Rajan fiasco, the government on Monday announced big reforms in FDI, notably in aviation, pharmaceuticals, defence and food processing sectors, further opening the doors for the inflow of enhanced overseas capital.

The announcement was made in a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office with an eye on creating more jobs, improving infrastructure and making the investment climate in the country more conducive for attracting foreign investment and technology.

AFPAFP

AFP

These decisions were taken at a high-level meeting here on Monday, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Trading of food products manufactured or produced in India, including through e-commerce, is allowed to get 100 percent FDI under the government approval route.

In defence, as of now, 49 percent FDI under automatic route is allowed. Above 49 percent is permitted through government approval on case to case basis, wherever it is likely to result in access to modern and ‘state-of-art’ technology in the country.

The government will now permit foreign equity beyond 49 percent through government approval route, in cases resulting in access to modern technology in the country or for other reasons to be recorded.

“The condition of access to ‘state-of-art’ technology in the country has been done away with,” the release said.

Also, FDI limit for the sector has also been made applicable to manufacturing of small arms and ammunitions covered under Arms Act 1959.

In the pharma sector, up to 74 percent FDI will be permitted under automatic route in brownfield projects and government approval route beyond 74 percent will continue.

As of now, 100 percent FDI is allowed in pharma under automatic route in greenfield projects and up to 100 percent under government approval in brownfield projects.

In the aviation, 100 percent FDI is allowed under automatic route in scheduled Air Transport Service/ Domestic Scheduled Passenger Airline and regional Air Transport Service. In this, FDI up to 49 percent is permitted under automatic route and FDI beyond 49 percent through government approval.

For NRIs, 100% FDI will continue to be allowed under automatic route. However, foreign airlines would continue to be allowed to invest in capital of Indian companies operating scheduled and non-scheduled air-transport services up to the limit of 49% of their paid up capital and subject to the laid down conditions in the existing policy.

With IANS

Govt plans regulating airfare surge during calamities: Mahesh Sharma

New Delhi: The government plans to regulate steep rise in airfares during natural calamities and force majure, Union minister Mahesh Sharma said on Thursday even as his senior colleague Ashok Gajapathi Raju maintained that capping would push up the floor price of tickets.

Union Minister Mahesh Sharma. PTIUnion Minister Mahesh Sharma. PTI

Union Minister Mahesh Sharma. PTI

Sharma said Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asked the Civil Aviation Ministry to take note of the surge in air ticket prices during natural calamities and force majeure. The ministry is seriously looking into the matter.

“We (Civil Aviation Ministry) are working seriously and very shortly we will come out with a proposal on how we can regulate (fares) during such situations and force majeure,” Sharma, the Minister of State for Civil Aviation, said.

He also referred to instances of airfares going up during the floods in Jammu & Kashmir and Jat agitation in Haryana.

However, Civil Aviation Minister Raju emphasised that the ministry does not want to cap the fares and push up the floor price.

Last week, Civil Aviation Secretary R N Choubey had said that capping airfares is an issue which continues to be under consideration of the ministry.

Earlier also, Raju had said that capping airfares could be counter-productive for majority of passengers as airlines might hike the floor prices.

“The idea is not to regulate for the sake of regulation. We don’t want to push up the cost of tickets for the majority,” he had said last week.

When asked about the possibility of capping air ticket prices at the event, the minister had said that floors and caps did exist before 1994.

“So do we want to make it a regulated affair or not? If you put a cap, the floor will go up. This is the problem…,” he had said.

An analysis done by the Ministry last year found that only around 1.7 per cent of the tickets were priced higher.

IAF seeks ban on use of UAVs, air balloons near vital installations in J &K and Punjab

Alarmed by the security threat posed by Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UASs), the Indian Air Force (IAF) has sought a ban on them in the proximity of defence installations in Jammu and Kashmir (J &K) and Punjab.This, even as the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), in consultation with the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), para military forces, the Navy and the Army, has been working on a countrywide policy for regulating the use of UAVs and UASs.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>IAF sources said a letter was shot to J&K and Punjab governments on June 2, underlining threats of terrorist attacks through the use of sub-conventional methods to target installations belonging to IAF, defence, para military forces and police.Such sub-conventional methods could be misuse of adventure sports facilities like para gliding, parasailing and air balloons.The IAF has also sought the civil administration’s help in respective areas to identify the private agencies that are involved in these adventure sports and declaration of the equipments they own.IAF chief Arup Raha in October publicly showed concern about the possibility of UAVs becoming tools at the hands of terrorists while speaking to reporters. Other security agencies too, have been seeking a high-priority focus on regulating their use.Since these devices fly at low levels, detecting them by radars become difficult.In January this year, IAF had to press its frontline fighter jet Sukhoi-30 to shoot down an “unidentified” balloon over Barmer in Rajasthan, close to the international border with Pakistan. It later turned out to be a helium filled and harmless balloon but sources in security establishment didn’t deny that such instances could be to test IAF’s response time on breaching of the Indian air space.In May last year, security agencies went into a tizzy after five remote controlled parachutes were spotted in the Mumbai airport airspace. Though they were later identified to have been mistakenly entered the area and ‘harmless’, it led to Mumbai police banning the use of drones and paragliders in the city.

Maharashtra: Finance minister Mungantiwar urges aviation ministry to restart Nanded airport

Drawing the Central government’s attention to the lack of air connectivity in Nanded – a major pilgrimage spot for Sikhs and the second largest city in Marathwada region – finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar has written to the civil aviation ministry.Mungantiwar, considered to be second in command in the BJP-led Maharashtra government, has asked the authorities to connect Nanded’s Shri Guru Gobind Singh Ji airport to Mumbai, and start services on the New Delhi-Mumbai-Nanded and Nanded-Mumbai-New Delhi routes. He stated that this will act as a catalyst for trade and tourism in the region.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Replying to his letter late last month, Minister of State (Independent), Ministry of Civil Aviation, Mahesh Sharma said, “I am having the matter looked into”. Mungantiwar said Nanded is among the oldest cities in Marathwada. It is the headquarter of the Nanded district and second largest city in Marathwada, after Aurangabad. It is also the eighth largest urban agglomeration of Maharashtra. “Nanded has been a major place for Sikh pilgrimage. Huzur Sahib in Nanded is the second holiest site in Sikhism, next only to Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple) of Amritsar,” he said.The airport was redeveloped and upgraded in 2008. Aviation Regulator Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) then awarded it the Provisional Aerodrome License in the public use category in April 2010. On October 1, 2010, the airport received the permanent license, said the officials.The now defunct Kingfisher airlines was the first to start services from Nanded. Spicejet and GoAir also joined in at different times, only to discontinue later due to lack of enough demand. As per the aviation sources, none of the private airlines are keen to start services there at present.During the Lok Sabha proceedings in March this year, Congress’ Rajiv Satav asked the civil aviation ministry to press national carrier Air India (AI) to connect the unconnected airports such as Nanded. Civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapati Raju, in his reply to the demand, said the government will not “force” AI into flying to unconnected cities. He added that there was a proposal under the new aviation policy to connect unserved airports under the regional connectivity scheme.According to the state government officials, Maharashtra plans to announce a regional air connectivity policy after the one introduced by the Government of India is finalised. This policy will boost regional development and attract investment by developing regional air connectivity at district and regional headquarters and smaller centres.

Question before civil aviation ministry: Will populism fly before Modi

The Modi government has been celebrating its two-year achievements at a breathless pace. But the sound and fury over two years of glorious achievements has been missing from at least one ministry. Hoardings put up at Rajiv Gandhi Bhawan, which houses the ministry of civil aviation, speak eloquently of double digit traffic growth, fall in jet fuel prices etc.

But minister P Ashok Gajapathi Raju did not hold any press meet to speak about his ministry’s work over the last two years. He merely spoke to state-owned Doordarshan and one national daily, telling both that significant progress had been made in the sector and the much-awaited Civil Aviation Policy was on its way. The only problem is the policy has not even been sent to the Union Cabinet yet for discussion and approval despite months of discussions. Some of the key provisions have divided the industry right down the middle and there are again murmurs of at least one important recommendation stalling the policy, one more time.

ReutersReuters

Reuters

The civil aviation sector has seen unprecedented growth without much effort from the government itself. Domestic passenger traffic grew 21% in FY16, the highest in the world. Average seat occupancy of 83% means on an average, eight out of ten seats on an aircraft were paid for. Most Indian carriers reported higher profits or smaller losses in FY16, with some reporting record profits. Much of this can be attributed to benign jet fuel prices and some of it happened because of cost cutting by airlines themselves. There seems to be little the ministry has done to bring about this stupendous growth.

In this backdrop, where Raju prefers silence and his ministry continues deliberations on key decisions, it is quite surprising to see junior civil aviation minister Mahesh Sharma speaking about key final recommendations in the policy in an interview today. Whatever happened to secrecy and sanctity of Cabinet decisions, two attributes which mark the NDA government’s every move? Why discuss and confirm recommendations before they have been approved, especially since these very clauses have divided the aviation industry right down the middle and could be changed or significantly altered by the Cabinet?

Could it be that Sharma and Raju do not have common views on key policy clauses and this is junior’s way of putting out his views to gain approval from the world at large, whatever the final decision of the Cabinet might be?

Aviation consultancy CAPA’s South Asia CEO Kapil Kaul says the Civil Aviation Policy needs an expert review and the ministry could set up something like a Naresh Chandra committee (with 1-2 months target to revert) before it goes to the Cabinet. “The present draft, though widely consulted and with right intentions, has some serious strategic flaws and is not well thought out. More importantly, is not worthy of being sent to the PM. The PM has transformational plans for the Indian economy and the present draft policy is not going to support this mission in any way. India’s aviation mission must support PM’s transformational economic plans”.

That the two ministers and indeed, this ministry, do not work in harmony is apparent not just from Sharma’s outburst alone. Several decisions which the government wants to implement seem to have little thought or logic behind them.

Here are a few:

1) There is a fresh indication that ignoring all warning signs and much against plain common sense, the ministry is moving to cap air fares. Secretary R N Choubey has been quoted by the Times of India this morning as saying that the government is examining whether to put “limited restrictions on domestic fares that can be charged under some circumstances”. While Choubey did not elaborate on the ‘circumstances’, he said the idea is to provide relief to flyers. If this is about restricting sudden fare surge during natural calamities like floods/earthquakes or during unprecedented situations like the recent Jat agitation, this move could be a sensible one.

But even here, an attempt to twist free market dynamics by telling airlines how much they should charge reeks of sense of false socialism. There are enough forums which take care of consumer interest and abnormally high fares can be challenged there. The government is neither empowered to cap fares under the existing laws nor is it setting the right example by making such a move. At best, airlines should be asked to self-regulate.

2) In the same interview, Choubey talks of asking airlines to enhance free baggage limit and also tweak the cabin baggage norms. When the world is moving towards unbundling of services, we Indians want more free baggage and other conveniences. World over, airlines are allowed to charge for every service and this helps both, airlines as well as flyers. Airlines generate more revenue and flyers can choose which services they want and pay for only those instead of paying for everything by default.

3) The 5/20 rule is apparently only being diluted, not abolished all together. This unique restriction bars Indian airlines from flying overseas unless they have first operated domestic routes for five years and have a fleet of 20 aircraft. Sharma has said that the five year clause will go but the 20-aircraft requirement will stay. Amber Dubey, Head of Aerospace and Aviation for KPMG in India, noted in a recent newspaper column that the “anti-competition 5/20 rule should have never been there in the first place. NCAP (the policy) is expected to still retain it, albeit, in a watered down ‘0/20’ version. It effectively means ‘3/20’ since any new airline would typically take 3-4 years to reach a fleet size of 20 aircraft”

4) Auctioning unused bilateral rights. This is one of the proposals which the airlines are bitterly opposed to. And this one proposal seems to be holding up the Policy again. An industry source said the PMO has raised objections to this proposal, which envisages that unused bilaterals (rights which airlines of two signatory countries acquire to mount flights to each other) be auctioned off. This source said such a proposal is not followed anywhere in the world, will weaken our own airports and hurt the industry.

As the hike in Aviation Turbine Fuel (ATF) prices this morning show, the days of benign oil prices could soon be over and with that the time to get things right. A beginning can be made by junking populism and embracing pragmatism. Having the civil aviation ministry mandarins all on one page will also help in sending the right message, so that the third year anniversary of the Modi government gives the ministry some genuine cause for cheer.

Bids for upgrading Nagpur airport to be issued soon

In a boost to regional air connectivity in Maharashtra and Central India, the state government is planning to expand the capacity of the Nagpur airport and to construct a new runway.”The request for quotations (RFQs) for the upgradation and modernisation of the Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar International Airport (BAIA) will be issued soon. This project will be undertaken on a public private partnership (PPP) basis on design, build, finance, operate and transfer basis,” said a senior government official.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>He added that a decision in this regard was taken in a recent meeting of the Maharashtra Airport Development Corporation (MADC) – a special purpose company to develop Multi-modal International Hub Airport at Nagpur (MIHAN) and Aviation Infrastructure in the state to provide the regional air connectivity.The BAIA airport is considered among the top 20 busiest airports in the country. According to an estimate, the airport saw a movement of around 1,401,147 passengers and 13,330 aircraft in 2014. The airport also saw handling of around 6,063 tonnes of cargo. The recent development is expected to improve its traffic handling capacity.The official said the decision to add another runway to the existing one would augment the capacity of the airport to handle passenger and cargo traffic. “One runway can be earmarked exclusively for the use of the Indian Air Force… now, there are restrictions on civilian flights. If a new runway is constructed, one can be kept exclusively for them,” he added, stating that the capacity augmentation would also help boost passenger traffic and exports from the units located in MIHAN and the larger region.The project was estimated to cost around Rs 1,400 crore and would consist of a parallel runway, taxiway, passenger terminal building and new cargo terminal building.”The existing terminal building is small. So, it will be expanded or a new one will be constructed,” the official said. “We will follow the PPP model which has been chosen for the proposed Greenfield Navi Mumbai International Airport…. since the operating income for the Nagpur airport will not be high, we will have to ensure that the non-operating income will be large. It is the first time this is being done in the Brownfield model,” he added.The state Cabinet has recently consented to swap MIHAN land with the IAF to aid the airport’s expansion. This had already been approved by the Centre. Accordingly, 278.158 hectare of Air Force land will be transferred to MIHAN in lieu of the former getting 400 hectare of MIHAN land. The CRPF will also swap 2.30 hectare land for a parcel of the same size with MIHAN. The aviation industry insiders are of view that even though the decision for swapping which has been hanging for over a decade has been cleared by the state Cabinet, it will not make much sense till the IAF physically hands over the possession of the said land. This would practically happen only after its new bases gets ready for operation on the land handed over to them by MADC.

DGCA seeks IAF nod for more flights to Jammu, Srinagar

With airlines keen on increasing services to Srinagar and Jammu, aviation regulator DGCA has sought Indian Air Force’s approval for increasing flight movements at the two airports.The airports are under the control of the IAF, which has allowed limited civilian aircraft movements.Sources said the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has sought IAF approval for increasing the number of flights at the two airports from the current eight to 12 per hour.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Airlines want to introduce more flights to the two airports. They (the IAF) have agreed to consider our request,” a senior DGCA official said.While awaiting approval, the aviation regulator has also written to the J&K government seeking increased security for airliners at the two airports.

Parliament panel raps govt for not inking Rafale deal

A Parliamentary panel on Tuesday rapped the government for not inking the Rafale deal despite “considerable time” even as the government said the original contract for 126 planes could not be concluded because Dassault Aviation did not agree to certain tender clauses and its own bid.Expressing its unhappiness, the Standing Committee on Defence, which submitted it report to the Lok Sabha, also asked the government to ensure that the IAF achieves it authorised strength of 42 squadrons as against 33 presently. “The Committee are unhappy to note that although a considerable time has elapsed, negotiations with France on Rafale could not be taken to a logical end,” the report said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>It was in April last year when Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his trip to France, had announced the decision to acquire 36 Rafale fighter jets off the shelf in view of the critical operational necessity for multi-role combat aircraft for the Indian Air Force.However, a contract is still to be signed due to the hard price negotiations. While the cost of the 36 Rafale fighter jets, based on the the original Request For Proposal (RFP) price while taking into account the foreign exchange and others, comes to about Rs 65,000 crore. India is bargaining hard to bring down the price to about Rs 59,000 crore.Talking about the earlier tender, the government told the committee that “contract negotiations in the procurement case could not be concluded because Dassault Aviation did not confirm agreement with certain terms of the RFP and its bid”.

DGCA suspends sacked SpiceJet pilot’s licence for making airhostess sit in cockpit

Aviation regulator DGCA has suspended the licence of a sacked SpiceJet commander for allegedly allowing an airhostess sit in the cockpit during a Bangkok-Kolkata flight.Delhi Daredevils vs Kolkata Knight Riders Live Cricket Score, 26th T20, Indian Premier League 2016, April 30, 2016The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has also placed under suspension the cabin crew member, who spent a “considerable time” with the Pilot-in-Command (PIC) in the cockpit, a senior DGCA official said on Saturday.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>SpiceJet has already terminated the services of the commander, who besides locking himself up with the airhostess in the cockpit had allegedly forced the co-pilot to sit out during the flight to Bangkok from Kolkata and back, after the flight’s chief airhostess filed a complaints in this regard with the airline.”We have suspended the flying licence of the pilot, pending investigation. We have also suspended the airhostess who was manning one of the right rear doors of the aircraft and sat with the commander in the cockpit for a good amount of time,” the official said.The orders in this regard have already been issued yesterday, the official added.The DGCA action against the commander restricts him from flying temporarily.As per air safety rules of the DGCA, no other person is allowed entry into the cockpit other than the DGCA officials or persons nominated by it.The services of the commander were terminated for violating DGCA safety norms after following due process, SpiceJet had said earlier.

Rafale deal in ‘final stages’: French team likely to visit India next month

New Delhi: A high-level team from France is expected to arrive here next month to firm up the order for the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter aircraft by India as both countries have managed to narrow down their differences over pricing.

The development comes nearly four months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Francois Hollande signed a memorandum of agreement to purchase 36 Rafale combat jets.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

The Indian side has been negotiating hard to bring down the price with Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar refusing to buckle under pressure even as questions were being raised about the delay in signing the contract. The deal comes with the clause of 50 percent offsets, which will be a bonanza for the domestic industry as it will lead to business worth at least € three billion ($3.4 billion) and creating new jobs in India.

The tough part of the negotiations that began in July 2015 was to get the French side to agree to 50 percent offsets in the deal.

Initially, Dassault Aviation, makers of Rafale, was willing to agree to reinvest only 30 percent of the value of its contract in Indian entities to meet the offset obligations.

The French side finally agreed to invest 50 percent of the value following a phone conversation between Modi and Hollande late last year.

The commercial negotiations, as in the pricing of the planes, equipment and other issues, actually began only in mid-January this year.

“It is correct to say that differences over pricing as more or less being settled. A final deal should take place next month if all matters go as scheduled,” a defence source said.

Government sources said the deal has not been concluded yet but it is in “final stages”.

The sources said the price for 36 Rafales, as per the UPA tender, keeping the cost escalation and dollar rate in mind, comes to a little over Rs 65,000 crore ($9.8 billion). This includes the cost involved in making changes India has sought in the aircraft, including Israeli helmet mounted display and some specific weaponry, among others.

“The effort is to bring down the price to less than €8 billion (Rs 59,000 crore),” the sources said. The expectation is that the final deal will be clinched by May-end.

Under the proposed deal, French companies apart from Dassault Aviation, will provide several aeronautics, electronics and micro-electronics technologies to comply with the offset obligation.

Companies like Safran and Thales will join Dassault in providing state-of-art technologies in stealth, radar, thrust vectoring for missiles and materials for electronics and micro-electronics.

Delhi fliers to face trouble as one runway at airport to be shut for maintenance work

Fliers at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi are likely face tough time from next week as private operator DIAL has decided to temporarily shut the main runway for maintenance work.Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL) is set to undertake some necessary and preventive repair works on Runway 10/28, starting April 5, a statement said on Friday. DIAL is a joint venture between national airports operator AAI and GMR Group-led consortium, with each partner holding 26 and 74 per cent stake, respectively.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Once the repair works of runway 10/28 is completed and it becomes operational, the airside efficiency of IGI Airport will further improve, the operator said. The preventive repair exercise is expected to be completed within seven days, it said adding during the closure period, the two other runways — runways 09/27 and 11/29 — will be fully available on a 24X7 basis to handle the traffic.These two runways would be sufficient to take care of the current need of air traffic movement, according to the statement.Sources, however, said the week-long repair work, will adversely impact the flight operations at Delhi airport which handles close to 970 flights per day this includes general aviation, cargo, national and international flights.”Runway 10/28 handles approximately 45-odd flights per hour or on an average over 500 flights per day. So, with this runway completely shut for operations, delays are bound to happen,” a source in ATC said.Periodic repair work is crucial to ensure the lifespan of the runway, DIAL said.In close collaboration with the stakeholders, DGCA, ATC and the airlines, it was decided to carry out the work in one stretch over a period of seven days instead of a piecemeal approach over a few months, it added.According to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) guidelines, the lifespan of a typical runway pavement worldwide is some 20 years, but the airport operators must carry out necessary repair works once in every 5-6 years in a bid to eradicate any early sign of runway pavement distress or cracks. These global guidelines recommend that the pavement engineer must assess and repair the runway regularly in a time bound and a scientific manner, DIAL said.

Chandigarh airport to be renamed after Shaheed Bhagat Singh

The Haryana Assembly on Thursday unanimously passed a resolution to name Chandigarh airport after freedom struggle icon Shaheed Bhagat Singh. As soon as the Question Hour ended, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ram Bilas Sharma moved the resolution in this regard.Later, it was unanimously passed with ruling BJP and main opposition Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) MLAs supporting it.Opposition Congress MLAs were not present as they have not been attending the assembly session to protest the six-month suspension of their three MLAs for tearing copies of the Governor’s address.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>On the resolution passed on Thursday, Sharma told the House that the state government would soon write to the Union Civil Aviation ministry in this regard. Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar had recently said that his government had no objection to the airport being named after Bhagat Singh.With the airport’s terminal building falling in Punjab’s Mohali town, Punjab government has put up signages of ‘Mohali airport’, upsetting Haryana government. The Rs 485-crore airport project is a joint venture of Airports Authority of India (AAI), governments of Punjab and Haryana.

Chandigarh airport to be named after Bhagat Singh; Haryana Assembly gives green signal

Chandigarh: The Haryana Assembly on Thursday unanimously passed a resolution to name Chandigarh airport after freedom struggle icon Shaheed Bhagat Singh.

As soon as the Question Hour ended, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ram Bilas Sharma moved the resolution in this regard.

Bhagat Singh. IBNliveBhagat Singh. IBNlive

Bhagat Singh. IBNlive

Later, it was unanimously passed with ruling BJP and main opposition Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) MLAs supporting it.

Opposition Congress MLAs were not present as they have not been attending the assembly session to protest the six-month suspension of their three MLAs for tearing copies of the Governor’s address.

On the resolution passed on Thursday, Sharma told the House that the state government would soon write to the Union Civil Aviation ministry in this regard.

Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar had recently said that his government had no objection to the airport being named after Bhagat Singh.

With the airport’s terminal building falling in Punjab’s Mohali town, Punjab government has put up signages of ‘Mohali airport’, upsetting Haryana government.

The Rs 485-crore airport project is a joint venture of Airports Authority of India (AAI), governments of Punjab and Haryana.

Centre to release 50 declassified files on Netaji today

The Centre will release the second batch of fifty declassified files relating to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose in the national capital on Tuesday.The documents consist of ten each files from the Prime Minister’s Office and Home Ministry and 30 files from Ministry of External Affairs pertaining to the period 1956 to 2009.Minister of State for Culture and Tourism (independent charge) and Civil Aviation, Mahesh Sharma will release these files online on web portal www.netajipapers.gov.in.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In January, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had put the first lot of 100 files in the public domain on the occasion of the 119th birth anniversary of Netaji.The present release of files will further meet the continued public demand to access them and it will also facilitate scholars to carry out further research on the doyen of the freedom movement.

Suspended AAI employee gets relief from Bombay High Court

In a relief to a suspended employee of Airports Authority of India (AAI), the Bombay High Court has asked him to make a fresh representation to a higher authority against the action.Hearing a petition filed by K S Lakshminarasimhan and his wife S Mangla, both employees of AAI, a division bench of Justices Anoop Mohta and A A Sayyed last week allowed Lakshminarasimhan to make a fresh representation to S Raheja, Member (Planning) AAI who is holding charge of the post of AAI Chairman for three months.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Lakshminarasimhan contended that he was suspended because his wife was a whistle-blower in a scam in AAI pertaining to high-rise buildings being allowed in the vicinity of the airports and also because he had appeared along with his wife in the High Court during the hearing of a PIL about alleged violation of safety rules due to such buildings.His wife had been named as one of the respondents along with AAI in the PIL.He said AAI had suspended him contending that he had appeared in the High Court along with his wife without taking its approval.However, Lakshminarasimhan said he had documents to show that he appeared in the court on orders from his bosses.He argued that the order of December 17, 2015, suspending him from service is illegal because it was issued without conducting a preliminary inquiry into the allegations made against him.Moreover, it also included a transfer order wherein he was moved from Mumbai to Kolkata.Lakshminarasimhan argued that his wife was in Mumbai and his daughter was studying in the megapolis and hence he should not be shifted to Kolkata from Mumbai.The PIL filed earlier in the High Court, which became the cause of petitioner’s suspension, involved alleged safety violations by AAI to grant building height clearances to high- rises that came along the flight paths of Juhu airport and Mumbai airport.The whistle-blower — who exposed these “violations” which led to the filing of the PIL — was the petitioner’s wife who also was AAI Deputy General Manager (Aviation Safety).The matter has been adjourned by four weeks to enable the respondents — the Secretary of Ministry of Civil Aviation and the current AAI Chairman — to file affidavits in reply.

Watch: Spicejet crew breaking into impromptu jig to celebrate Holi with passengers

On the occasion of Holi, SpiceJet cabin crew treated its passengers to a dance performance on Tuesday at the Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi.Click Here For LIVE SCORE: India vs Bangladesh, ICC World T20This time, the crew danced on Bollywood numbers before the plane took off. In the video, the crew members are seen dancing down the aisle and people happy enjoyed their performance and cheered alongside.Watch the video here:<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had earlier rejected a proposal from a Spicejet, to let its crew to celebrate Holi on board their domestic flights on March 24.In 2014, two pilots were suspended and a show cause notice was issued to the airline by DGCA because the crew performed a dance sequence as part of Holi celebrations.

Cultural event at Somnath temple deferred amid terror threat

In view of the terror threat across Gujarat, the Gir-Somnath district administration has decided to postpone a cultural event scheduled in the famous Somnath temple premises for the Maha Shivrati festival on Monday. Asia Cup 2016 Live: India vs Bangladesh, Final T20 Cricket Scorecard & Ball by Ball CommentaryConfirming the developments, Gir-Somnath District Collector Ajay Kumar said that the decision has been taken for the safety of citizens amid reports of a possible terror strike in Gujarat, including at Somnath temple.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”The cultural programme was scheduled to be held in Somnath temple premises today and tomorrow. However, we have decided to postpone it looking at terror alert given by police. We will announce the new dates later,” he said.Among other leaders, local MLA and state Civil Aviation Minister Jasa Barad was also scheduled to attend the programme, he said. “Barad was among the dignitaries invited for the programme. Since a large number of people were expected to come to the cultural event, it may have caused security problem for the police. Thus, the event is cancelled as of now. It will be organised afterwards,” the Collector said.State DGP PC Thakur had earlier announced that out of four teams of NSG which arrived in Gujarat yesterday, one has been sent to Somnath to beef-up security. At present, a large number of local policemen as well as from the State Reserve Police (SRP) have been deployed in and outside the famous temple.”After the terror alert was sounded, we have deployed more than 250 police personnel at the Somnath temple. We have formed different teams to check all kinds of movements near the temple,” Gir-Somnath’s Superintendent of Police (SP) A M Muniya said.

Mumbai: Jet Airways risked lives by not evacuating passengers from plane

The pilot of the Jet Airways plane which had a narrow escape from a mishap on Friday, further endangered the passengers by not using the emergency evacuation plan, reports a leading English daily. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The carrier had a high risk of catching fire after coming to a halt tilting on its right side with the right engine touching the ground.Nearly 120 passengers and eight crew members onboard the flight 9W 354 from New Delhi stayed inside the plane after its main landing gear collapsed when it landed here.
ALSO READ Jet Airways plane’s main landing gear collapses, close shave for 127 passengersThe passengers were inside for close to 40 minutes as fire tenders sprayed water and foam on the plane. They were later asked to step out of the plane using a stepladder. Major sparks were seen from under the engine as it scraped the ground during landing. As the right-hand main wheel assembly of the aircraft collapsed, the carrier did not have the support as it came down speedily. It tilted, which resulted in the engine grazing the ground. Capt Mohan Ranganathan, former member of the government’s Civil Aviation Safety Advisory Council said that the carrier could have caught fire if the fuel tanks been pierced. “Since a fire on the wing or fuselage does not generate a warning in the cockpit, the pilots would not have known about it, unless alerted by flight attendants who could have seen it. Hence, the standard operating procedure during such an emergency is to initiate an evacuation,” Ranganathan told the daily. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has reportedly asked for an inquiry.

7 flights have made emergency landing due to bomb threats in last three years: Govt

A total of 20 incidents of emergency landings, including those due to bomb threats, have been reported to aviation regulator DGCA over the last three years.Minister of State for Civil Aviation Mahesh Sharma told the Lok Sabha on Thursday that this year there was an emergency landing of a GoAir flight due to bomb threat. The Bhubaneswar- Mumbai flight was diverted to Nagpur on January 23.”During last three years and the current year, a total of 13 incidents of emergency landings due to technical glitches have been reported to DGCA. There have been seven incidents of emergency landing due to false rumours (bomb threat),” Sharma said in a written reply.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>For 2016, the minister gave details of emergency landing due to bomb threat as on March 1. According to him, on account of bomb threats, there were six emergency landings in 2015 while there was only one such incident in 2014.”Caller Identification (CLI) facility has been installed on all important telephone numbers of the airports and airlines offices both at airports and in their call centres. Legal actions are initiated against the person(s) whenever such fake/hoax calls are detected,” Sharma said.Meanwhile, there were 13 emergency landings during the period from 2013 till January 5, 2016. Out of them, one such incident happened this year and in 2015. In 2014, there were four such incidents and in 2013, the number stood at seven.”All incidents are investigated by DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation)/ PIB (Permanent Investigation Board) of the concerned airlines in association with officers of the regional air safety offices depending upon the severity of the case,” Sharma said.Under the annual surveillance programme, audit of the operators are conducted and recommendations from such reports are followed up for implementation. “The compliance of the action taken by the operator is further verified during the next audit,” he added.

Air India might get further funding if the allocated Rs 1,713 cr is not enough: Govt

New Delhi: Government on Wednesday allayed apprehensions that the already strained finances of Air India might see further pressure following reduced allocation of funds for the carrier in the next fiscal budget and said it is committed to infuse more equity based on the requirement.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his 2016-17 Budget speech on Monday had said national carrier Air India will get Rs 1,713 crore funding from the Government for FY17, against a demand of Rs 4,300 crore.

“There is not any cause of worry. The immediate requirement of Air India has been fully factored in the
budget. Any additional requirement will be placed in the supplementary budgets,” Civil Aviation Secretary R N Choubey said.

Representative image. PTIRepresentative image. PTI

Representative image. PTI

Choubey said that in the current fiscal also, funds have been infused in phased manner with the bulk of equity allocated in the main budget and additional requirements met through the supplementary demands.

The then UPA government had approved Air India’s turnaround plan in April 2012, with a committed public funding of Rs 30,231 crore, staggered over a period of nine years, with some specific riders.

Air India was allocated Rs 2,500 crore in the Union Budget for 2015-16 as against a demand of Rs 4,300 crore. To make up the shortfall, the Ministry had sought Rs 1,800 crore through supplementary demand for grants.

The government-run carrier has till date received Rs 22,280 crore as part of the bailout package.
He said payment of salaries at Air India will not be impacted as “at any point of time we (civil aviation ministry) can go to Finance Ministry to seek additional funding.” Choubey said in the current fiscal the funds have come less through the budget and more by way of supplementary, adding this year it will be the other way round.

The Government has pegged Air India’s losses at Rs 3529.80 crore for this fiscal, down from a net loss of Rs 5,859.91 crore in FY 15.

However, its debt burden stood at Rs 51,367.07 crore in the financial year ended March 2015.

PTI

Virender Sehwag appeals for calm as Jat reservation protests turn violent

Former Indian batsman Virender Sehwag has applied to one and all to remain peaceful in the midst of the ongoing Jat agitation for reservation in Haryana.12 railway stations have been set on fire till now. Jat protesters in Bhiwani and Sonipat districts have set afire two police chowkis, shops and ATM.An additional 1,700 paramilitary troops have been sent to Haryana on Sunday, taking the total number of central armed police personnel deployed in the troubled state to 5,000.”We have sent 17 more companies of paramilitary personnel in addition to 33 companies sent in last three days,” a senior Home Ministry official said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A company of a paramilitary force comprises about 100 personnel.The additional forces have been sent following a request by the Haryana government, which is grappling with the situation arising out of the violence following the Jat stir for quota in government jobs.The Jat stir has also hit Delhi with the Arvind Kejriwal government announcing closure of schools on Monday as part of water rationing after supply from Haryana was hit.With public transport system in Haryana severely hit by the Jat stir for quota, the Civil Aviation Ministry has asked airlines to operate additional flights from Delhi to Chandigarh, Amritsar and Jaipur to enable stranded people reach their destinations.(With PTI inputs)

Siachen avalanche: Determination of over 150 soldiers and two canines rescued Lance Naik Koppad

Dogged determination of over 150 soldiers helped by two canines, Dot and Misha, besides earth penetrating radars and special ice cutting equipment helped rescue Lance Naik Hanamanthappa Koppad, who was buried under tonnes of ice at 19,500 feet on the Siachen Glacier.On February 3, an 800X400ft ice wall broke off and covered an army post in northern glacier in Siachen, the world’s highest battlefield. The debris, including massive ice boulders, some the size of a small room, spread over 800×1000 metres.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The rescue teams had the arduous task of breaking through 25-30 ft of blue ice, which is harder than concrete, and had to chip it away inch by inch, army officials said explaining the rescue operation.Over 150 trained and acclimatised army troops, including specialised teams trained in glaciated terrain, were moved into the avalanche site and round-the-clock rescue operations were carried out in extreme weather conditions where average day temperatures was minus 30 degrees Celsius and night temperature below minus 55 degrees.Also read: Lance Naik Hanamanthappa Koppad in comatose state, condition critical, says ArmyMedical teams and equipment were moved in and a post established to provide emergency treatment at the rescue site itself. Specialized rescue dogs were also pressed into service.”The dogs, Dot and Misha, did a tremendous job,” the officials said.Specialized digging and boring equipment, like rock drills, electrical saws and earth augers were flown in.In addition, deep penetration radars, capable of detecting metallic objects and heat signatures at a depth of 20 meters, and radio signal detectors were also flown in using Air Force fixed wing aircrafts and Army Aviation helicopters.Using the specialized equipment the rescue teams were able to identify locations, where digging were carried out. However, rescue efforts were frequently hampered by high velocity winds and blizzards. By yesterday, the rescue teams were able to reach the location of the buried habitat and Koppad was recovered alive.The bodies of nine soldiers were also extricated from their icy grave.”Him being found alive electrified the entire rescue team. There was a sudden burst of energy among the men,” officials said.When rescued, Koppad was conscious but drowsy and disoriented. He was severely “dehydrated, hypothermic, hypoxic, hypoglycemic and in shock”. He was immediately resuscitated by the doctors at the site, who had been there for the past 5 days in the hope of finding a survivor.He was treated with warm intravenous fluids, humidified warm oxygen and passive external rewarming. He was later moved to the Army andResearch Hospital here, they said.

Controversy erupts after Jet suspends five cabin crew over Nigam’s in-flight ‘concert’

New Delhi: A controversy erupted on Friday over Jet Airways suspending five cabin crew members after singer Sonu Nigam was allowed to use the public address system on a chartered flight to belt out Bollywood numbers with the action being slammed by him as “Real Intolerance”.

Jet Airways faces heat. ReutersJet Airways faces heat. Reuters

Jet Airways faces heat. Reuters

The Bollywood fraternity and social media reacted with outrage to the punishment handed out by the private airline
following an order by aviation regulator DGCA but the civil aviation ministry justified the action.

The incident occurred on a chartered flight from Jodhpur to Mumbai on 4 January, when the “errant” crew members allowed Nigam, 42, to hold a sort of musical concert on board following a request from fellow passengers, Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) sources said.

The matter came to DGCA’s notice after a video of Nigam, 42, singing on board the flight went viral on social media.

Action has been initiated against the crew members since allowing a passenger to use the public address system on board a flight amounts to violation of safety norms, the sources said.

“All cabin crew on the flight have been taken off flight duty for inquiry and corrective training to reinforce strict adherence to operating procedures,” Jet Airways said in a statement.

The DGCA has summoned Jet Aitways officials on 10 February over the issue. When contacted, a Jet Airways spokesperson said that he was not aware of it.

As per approved procedures, Public Address (PA) system of a flight is required to be used only under certain conditions, a senior DGCA official said, adding in this case, “the system was used for song which is violation of procedures.”

“Besides, the forward galley was unattended and there were number of passengers standing in aisle area,” the
official said, adding, “since the aircraft was descending “(standing) passengers could have been hurt in case of a
weather turbulence.”

The official also pointed out that both the commander and his deputy were also not informed of the activity inside the cabin and the “act of cabin crew was not as per requirements.”

As per a Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR) on training and licensing of cabin crew, issued by DGCA in 2010, “the PA
(public address) system and interphone system are tools for relaying safety information”.

“It is not meant to sing songs and such violations cannot be tolerated by DGCA,” the official said, adding there were two incidents recently wherein passengers were hurt due to inflight turbulence when they were moving in the aisle when the aircraft was descending.

But Nigam in a sharp retort said that when he sang there were no announcements that needed to be made and the action against the cabin crew was “utter nonsense”.

“Pity there’s no one to question such harshness except the Media perhaps. Indians, need to loosen up. This act of
lack of Common Sense, according to me, is Real Intolerance,” Nigam said in a statement.

PTI

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