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Indian government gives itself extension for mandatory airport licensing

The Indian government has issued a notification effectively extending the mandatory licensing deadline for most of the airports operated by the Airports Authority of India (AAI) which is a government body.

“no person shall operate scheduled air transport services to/from an aerodrome with effect from the 30 June 2011, unless it has been licensed by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).”

The licensing procedure for airports was initiated as a part of the standards notified by International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO pronounced Eye-Kay-Oh) in its Annex-14 on the subject of Aerodrome Design and Operations. Accordingly, Part XI of the Aerodrome Licensing in India’s Aircraft Rules 1937 was amended to include the provision for licensing.

While all ten privately operated or joint-venture airports have been required to obtain licensing in order to commence/continue operations, the airports operated solely by the Airports Authority of India which is part of the Indian Ministry of Civil Aviation, have been given this extension vide notification SO 1735 (E) dated 19th July 2010.

The private/JV airports are: Lengpui airport, Aizwal, Manipur, Jindal Vijaynagar, Karntaka, Cochin International Airport, Nedumbassery, Cochin, Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi, Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Mumbai, Sri Satya Sai Airport, Puttaparthy, Jamshedpur Aerodrome, Jamshedpur, Rajiv Gandhi International Airport, Shamshabad, Hyderabad, Bangalore International Airport, Devanahalli, Bangalore, Shri Guru Gobind Singhji Airport, Nanded, Maharashtra.

Total number of AAI airports to be licensed : 53
Initial Licenses issued : 15
License applications received : 15
Aerodrome inspected for issue of licence : 14
Applications yet to be submitted : 23

In addition to the AAI operated airports, there are 22 defence airports which have civil enclaves for civil aviation operations. Some notable airports include Lohegaon at Pune, Dabolim at Goa, and at Guwahati, Assam. The Ministry reports that they have taken up the issue of licensing of these airports with the Ministry of Defence, but no further information is available.

Airport licensing backgrounder

Regulations for licensing of aerodromes in India existed since 1956 as provided in Rule 79 of the Aircraft Rules, 1937. The Rule however excluded Government aerodromes, which were managed and operated by the regulator – Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).

In 1971, the management of four Government managed international aerodromes i.e. Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata was given to the International Airports Authority of India (IAAI). In 1985, the management of all Government managed domestic aerodromes was transferred from the DGCA to the National Airports Authority (NAA) along with the aerodrome directorate.

Subsequently, in 1995, the IAAI and NAA were merged to form the Airports Authority of India (AAI).

With the transfer of all airports and CNS/ATM (communication and navigation systems / air traffic management) functions, from DGCA to the NAA in 1985, there was a void in the DGCA, so in 1999 the aerodrome standards directorate was established within the DGCA. However, the activities remained minimal due to the manpower constraints and lack of regulatory framework for aerodrome licensing.

In March 2001, ICAO adopted Amendment No. 4 to Annex 14, Volume I, which required all airports used for international operations to be certified by November 27, 2003. Accordingly, the rules in India were amended to comply with the ICAO provisions. Rule 78 of India’s Aircraft Rules, 1937 states

No aerodrome shall be used as a regular place of landing and departure by a scheduled air transport service or for a series of landings and departures by any aircraft carrying passengers or cargo for hire or reward unless it has been licensed for the purpose.

Detailed requirements and guidance in the form of Civil Aviation Requirements (CARs) and advisory circulars have been developed based on ICAO’s Standards and Recommend Procedures (SARPs) and guidance material provided in the ICAO document on aerodrome certification procedure.

In India, there are about 87 airports used for scheduled flight operations. As of date eleven international and twelve domestic airports have been licensed.

Priority has been given to international airports to ensure compliance to India’s obligations to ICAO and the Chicago Convention.

Does the phrase “Do as I say, not as I do” come to your mind too?

About Devesh Agarwal

A electronics and automotive product management, marketing and branding expert, he was awarded a silver medal at the Lockheed Martin innovation competition 2010. He is ranked 6th on Mashable's list of aviation pros on Twitter and in addition to Bangalore Aviation, he has contributed to leading publications like Aviation Week, Conde Nast Traveller India, The Economic Times, and The Mint (a Wall Street Journal content partner). He remains a frequent flier and shares the good, the bad, and the ugly about the Indian aviation industry without fear or favour.

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