Civil Aviation minister Vayalar Ravi kicked off the centenary year celebrations at the nation’s capital New Delhi, earlier this morning.
Bengaluru International Airport Limited, the airport operator of Bangalore, together with its partners and concessionaires began the celebrations with an auspicious lighting of the lamp followed by unveiling of the official Civil Aviation Centenary Year logo. The two large installations will be displayed at the terminal building for a month and have been created with ambient lighting and a revolving base. The ceremony saw attendance from the airport authorities, airlines, partners and the BIAL staff. Some passengers joined in the celebrations as well.
The speech the minister read out is presented below.
“It is a great occasion for India that we are today celebrating the completion of 100 years of commercial civil aviation in this country. A hundred years ago, on this very day a plane flew from Allahabad to Naini, carrying 6500 mails. This marked not only the birth of commercial civil aviation in India but also the first airmail service in the world.
We have gathered here today to celebrate the achievements of civil aviation during the last hundred years and I welcome you all on this occasion.
Flying has been an eternal dream for humanity. It has been symbolic of the spirit of freedom – the desire to reach the skies.
India took to wings only 7 years after the historic flight of the Wright brothers. It is believed that the first planes came to India and perhaps to Asia in 1910 though the first commercial civil aviation flight took off only on the 18th February 1911.
Since then India and Indians have never looked back. Through the eventful decades, Indian civil aviation has flown from strength to strength and is today one of the fastest growing aviation market in the world.
Contributing to this growth has been the undaunting spirit of our entrepreneurs, pilots, engineers, crew-members and scientists. It is not only a proud but a grateful nation which remembers those remarkable Indians who have steered the sector through thick and thin to reach its present heights.
Today, we are remembering Late Rajiv Gandhi ji who rose to become the Prime Minister of India from being a pilot and who laid the foundation of some outstanding aviation related institutions like Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Udaan Academy and Pawan Hans Helicopters Limited.
I would also like to acknowledge Late JRD Tata who is generally considered to be the father of Indian Civil Aviation.
Civil aviation is a major driver of the economy. The International Civil Aviation Organisation estimates that every 100 dollars spent on air transport produce benefits worth 325 dollars for the economy. Hundred additional jobs in air transport result in 610 new jobs in the economy.
The last hundred years have seen Indian civil aviation expand exponentially. From the days of the first flight when aircrafts landed on plain grounds without any navigational aids, we have traveled a long distance to modern and world-class airports of Hyderabad, Cochin, Bangalore and of course T-3.
Today the handling capacity of our airports has reached to 235 million people, which is sufficient to fulfill our needs for the next few years. I would like to point out that airports are being improved not only in the major Metros but also 35 non-Metros, in a phased manner.
It is a matter of satisfaction for us that during the last two decades from a fleet of only about 100, the scheduled operators today have 435 aircrafts connecting the nation and the world. This growth is going to be further accelerated in the years to come and we expect that in another decade or so India would have about 1000 more planes and 500 more helicopters.
The acquisition of these modern aircrafts and the investment in airports is expected to generate business opportunities worth about 150 billion dollars that will revolutionize the sector. Civil Aviation is clearly the sunrise sector of the Indian economy that is likely to change the way Indians move, think and live.
The last hundred years have posed innumerable challenges in the civil aviation sector which we successfully overcame. The new century that lies ahead of us, is also bound to throw up new challenges. It is necessary for us, as a nation, to foresee those challenges and to prepare ourselves to meet them effectively.
The increase in the number of aircrafts is bound to put a heavy pressure on our regulatory and oversight systems. Today India is considered to be one of the safest countries in terms of civil aviation. Recently, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of America even cited India as a role model in the Asia-Pacific region.
In order to retain this position and to assure all travelers the guarantee of safety, it would be necessary to redefine the parameters of regulation. We are already looking into this matter and considering to restructure the DGCA into a more comprehensive system, which works well above international standards.
One of the biggest challenges before us is to lend renewed vibrancy to public sector undertakings like Air India and Airports Authority of India. These two organisations have rendered historic service to the nation and their continued vibrancy is critical for optimal growth of the sector. The Government is committed to support these organizations to ensure their healthy future.
Civil aviation is a major employment creator and according to available studies it is expected that this sector will create new employment opportunities for nearly 26 lakh Indians by 2025.
Catering to this human resource need is in itself a challenge. We shall strive to develop and nurture a strong world class training infrastructure in the country to ensure continuous production of skilled and professional manpower to fulfill the requirements of this sector.
Civil Aviation industry is extremely sensitive to the economic environment in which it operates. Issues of taxation, investment policies and competition are vital to its survival. As the sector grows, there would be an acute need to fine-tune our system of competition management, taxation laws and investment strategies, while remaining socially responsible towards the aspirations of common Indians.
The increase in civil aviation activity is bound to impact the environment too. It is necessary that we should nationally gear up to face this challenge and move towards better technologies and mitigation strategies to minimize the effect of aviation on environment. A socially harmonized growth of aviation alone will ensure its sustainability.
While we are celebrating our continuous growth it is also necessary to be eternally cautious of the threats to our security from various quarters. We have to remember the tragedies of Kanishka and IC 814 to remain constantly vigilant of the dangers that lurk round the corner.
Maintaining security is the priority that cannot be overlooked even for a single moment. It might have some effect on passenger facilitation but it is imperative in the larger interest of travelers as well as of the nation
As we move ahead into the next century, it is our resolve to let this sector blossom fully but responsibly. At the centre of this entire system is the common man and we would like all the players in the sector to make the flying experience of passengers safe, secure, comfortable and happy.
The rights of the passengers need to be respected and protected at all times. While we will ensure a liberal and competitive environment for the growth of the private sector, they must strive to maintain the centrality of the consumer.
We have recently taken significant steps for consumer protection through Civil Aviation Regulations on disability related rights, refunds, cancellations, delays, over-bookings and denied boardings.
We would appreciate that Airlines and Airports should compete with each other in offering to passengers better of facilities, services and protection of their Rights. We in the Government propose to further strengthen this initiative in the days to come.
In conclusion, I would like to congratulate the entire country for the success story of the last hundred years. This function today just marks the beginning of a year-long series of events and initiatives which will make this centenary year a memorable one.
During the year we propose to set up institutions like Universities, Museums, Archives etc which will strengthen the sector. A century has been completed and we assure the nation that the new century that dawns today would see this sunrise sector spread the sunshine of prosperity all round the country.”