Thursday, March 21, 2013

Aircraft buy made easier

New Delhi, March 21: The government today relaxed the condition for the import of planes by airlines and other operators in a bid to remove bureaucratic hurdles and delays faced by the companies.

So long, carriers had to take the permission of the civil aviation ministry’s aircraft acquisition committee (AAC) to buy aircraft. The government has scrapped this committee and entrusted the directorate general of civil aviation (DGCA) to carry out the formalities for scheduled and non-scheduled operators, private operators and flying training institutes to get their fleet of planes and helicopters.

The AAC was set up in the late 1990s but, with increasing imports, airlines have been complaining of delays in getting clearances because of red tape and long queues.

The move can help local carriers such as IndiGo, SpiceJet and GoAir, who have a huge backlog of pending approvals to bring in new aircraft faster. Most of these airlines have acquired the rights to increase their international flights through bilateral pacts India has signed with the Gulf and Southeast Asian countries.

Local carriers will now require just an initial no-objection certificate from the civil aviation ministry to start operations. The ministry’s approval is not required “for the actual import or replacement of aircraft and all such cases will be dealt by the DGCA for the completion of necessary formalities”, the ministry spokesperson said.

In October last year, civil aviation minister Ajit Singh had constituted a new AAC to consider, examine and make recommendations on all proposals for permitting the import or acquisition of aircraft.

Ministry officials said Singh felt the AAC should be abolished as it was “no more relevant”.

Till 1997, the DGCA used to clear civilian aircraft acquisition.

Airlines are upbeat about the decision. “IndiGo welcomes this move to liberalise aircraft acquisition norm. This is a significant step towards unleashing the true potential of aviation in India, whereby the demand-supply anomaly may be addressed over time and millions more may be able to fly one day at lower fares,” said Aditya Ghosh, president of IndiGo Airlines.

Aviation experts said the move would smoothen the process of aircraft acquisition.

“Paperwork will be reduced. An airline, at present, has to wait till the AAC gives its final nod before it brings in an aircraft. This process sometimes takes a lot of time as there are times when the AAC does not hold meetings for months,” said U.K. Bose, former president and CEO of Sahara Airlines.

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