Monday, 6 February 2012

New regulator on priority list

Mumbai: It is Utopian to believe that by giving the CAA absolute financial and recruitment powers,critical job functions like safety monitoring will improve, said a senior aviation analyst.
Among the contentious points in the draft bill is the eligibility criteria laid down for the CAA top post.
The chairperson will be a person who is or has held the post of secretary to the government or an equivalent post in the central government, says the draft.In other countries,aviation professionals,like pilots with decades of experience or people with technical knowledge of the aviation industry can vie for the top post in their aviation regulatory body.Then again,unlike other government agencies,the bill selectively lays down 65 years as the age of retirement for the CAA chairperson.
Said an aviation source: It appears to be a tailor-made,post-retirement plan for high-ranking IAS officers.If one retires as civil aviation secretary,one can,with great probability,ensure employment till the age of 65 as CAA chairperson,a very coveted post. Zaidi,the architect of the CAA bill,is scheduled to retire on July 7 this year and that has led to the talk in aviation circles about the possibility of him being the first CAA chairperson.Zaidi,when contacted,said he would not like to comment.
According to a ministry source,formation of the CAA has been put on the priority list in a letter sent to the Prime Ministers Office by the aviation ministry late last year.
The CAA will differ primarily from the DGCA in the administrative structure.The CAA board will comprise the chairperson,followed by the directorgeneral of civil aviation who will be called the chief executive officer.The board will have not less than 10 members and not more than 12.Out of this,six members will be full-time and the others will be part-timers.The bill is vague on qualifications demanded from the six members who will be in charge of critical functions like airworthiness and aircraft engineering,aviation safety,flight standard operations.
Only a previous job experience requirement is mentioned but no technical or educational qualification is listed,leaving scope for non-technically qualified personnel to dominate the board, said a senior commander.
The joint director generals of DGCA will move in as CAA members.It does appear like a super bureaucracy, he added.
Said a senior B737 instructor: In the US,for instance,the Federal Aviation Administration is hauled up by National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) when it goes soft on airlines or pilots.In India,there is no technicallyproficient body like the NTSB to question the DGCA and the same will apply to the CAA.The CAA can cover its tracks if there is an air crash or serious incident, he added.The only difference is that the CAA will be a much more independent and powerful than the DGCA.It is a disconcerting thought as recent developments like fake pilot licence scam,involvement of DGCA officials in fraudulent activities to protect their kin have shown that we are not a country filled with upright government officials, he said.
Another controversial clause in the bill gives the CAA emergency powers to compulsorily acquire land under the controversial Land Acquisition Act of 1894 for a public purpose.

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