2020: The Year Of Ensuring Right Planning For The Unprecedented Times
Published on January 31, 2021
New Delhi: The year 2020 created unprecedented times along with a global health crisis. Amid this challenging period the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) played a key role in revival of the social and economic situation. The revitalising role of MoCA helped in facilitating medical support to people even in the remotest part of the country and on the other hand supported in resuming people and necessary cargo movement across the country. A well calibrated effort by MoCA with the support of other government agencies ensured that there was no shortage of medical as well as food essentials in the country during this Covid 19 pandemic induced crisis.
During this pandemic when the world struggled to plan their way out of this deadly situation, the Government of India used the COVID-19 calamity as an opportunity to continue the growth path and bring in systemic reforms. Below is a summary of the initiatives and activities carried out by the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) during 2020.
Ministry of Civil Aviation initiatives against COVID19:
- Mission – Lifeline UDAN
- ‘Lifeline Udan’ flights were started by MoCA to transport essential medical cargo to different parts of the country to support India’s fight against COVID – 19. The essential cargo included reagents, enzymes, medical equipment, testing kits, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE}, masks, gloves and other accessories required by Corona Warriors across the country. Helicopter services including Pawan Hans Ltd have been operating in J&K, Ladakh, Islands and North East region transporting critical medical cargo and patients. Domestic Lifeline Udan flights operated in a hub and spoke model. Cargo hubs were established at Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Bangalore, and Guwahati. Lifeline Udan flights connected these hubs to airports (Spokes) at Dibrugarh, Agartala, Aizwal, Dimapur, Imphal, Jorhat, Lengpui, Mysuru, Nagpur, Coimbatore, Trivandrum, Bhubaneswar, Raipur, Ranchi, Srinagar, Port Blair, Patna, Cochin, Vijayawada, Ahmedabad, Jammu, Kargil, Ladakh, Chandigarh, Goa, Bhopal and Pune. Special focus was given on the North East Region, island territories and the hill states. Air India and IAF collaborated primarily for J&K, Ladakh, North-East and other island regions.
- A portal for coordinating Lifeline UDAN flights was developed by National Informatics Centre (NIC) and MoCA in a record span of three days to enable seamless coordination between various stakeholders. Public information related to Lifeline Udan flights was updated daily on the portal at https://esahaj.gov .in/lifeline udan/public info.
- MoCA vide letter No.13029/1/2020-A-MOCA dated 26.05.2020 issued Standard Operating Protocol (SOP) for private aircraft and charter operations on international sectors in order to facilitate the movement of stranded Indian nationals and certain OCI card holders to bring back to India. MoCA in association with MEA and MHA took a major decision to evacuate distressed Indian citizens due to COVID -19 pandemic from foreign shores. The mission called ‘Vande Bharat Mission’ started on 7 May 2020. Around 31 Jakh Indians have been repatriated under the Vande Bharat Mission till 31.12.2020. The VBM has so far involved 6373 Air India flights and 474 flights by the private Indian carriers. Till date a total of 1,035,471 Indian nationals have been repatriated by Air India whereas 74,675 Indian nationals have been brought back by private carriers. The mission is still going on.
- Air Bubbles: “Transport Bubbles” or “Air Travel Arrangements” are temporary arrangements between two countries aimed at restarting commercial passenger services as international flights are suspended because of the COVID-19 pandemic. They are reciprocal in nature, meaning airlines from both countries enjoy similar benefits.India has established transport bubbles with twenty-four countries across the world.
- Few new initiatives during COVID to improve the cargo movements:
- Permission to utilise the passenger cabin of aircraft for carriage of cargo subject to safety requirements.
- waiver of demurrage upto 50% on import cargo at airports; and
- extension of validity of certificates of dangerous goods (e.g. chemicals used for medicines).
- GARUD Portal
- A portal called Government Authorization for Relief Using Drones (GARUD) was launched on 2 May 2020 to provide fast track exemptions to government agencies for COVID-19 related drone operations. The portal was designed, developed, beta-tested and launched by MoCA, DGCA and NIC in a record period of eight days.
- Reopening of Domestic Air Transport in a stage wise manner: On 25th May 2020, the commercial civil aviation operations were reopened with robust SOPs. The SOPs were updated time to time & aviation has emerged as the safest mode of transport.
- RT-PCR Testing at the entry airport for the arriving international passengers: MoCA vide O.M. AV.29017/5/2020-DT dated 29.09.2020 allowed all the arriving international passengers, if they so desire, to avail the facility of RT-PCR testing at the entry airport, wherever available. The guidelines were applicable for all arriving international passengers, who arrive at an entry airport in India without RT-PCR Negative certificate and wish to avail exemption from institutional quarantine or need to take a connecting flight to domestic destinations in India.
- Risk Management Approach for the application of Exemptions/Extensions in view of COVID 19” – In view of the extension of training and checks given vide circular 02/2020, All Operators, Scheduled and Non-Scheduled were required to adopt a Safety Risk Management approach for applying the exemptions/extensions to their operation. This circular provided guidance of recording and reporting of the risk mitigation actions taken by all operators, along with General Aviation operators who have an SMS approval.
- Establishment of ICC: Investment Clearance Cell (ICC) has been established in MoCA with the key objective of prompt clearance of investment proposals.
- Krishi Udan:
- In the context of “Krishi Udaan” announced through the Union Budget 2020-21 on 01 February 2020, the first marine sector pilot project was launched on 26 February 2020 during the harvesting season of mid-February through till May. The pilot entailed 06 freighter operations per week (03 between Chennai Vizag-Surat and 03 between Chennai-Vizag, Kolkata) for air transporting shrimp seeds for harvesting at Surat and Kolkata and then further exports of high value fresh and chilled shrimps out of India. Each freighter load is about 20-22 tonnes. As a measure of the significant improvement in value realization, this pilot represents weekly upscaling by a multiple of about 20. Moreover, the commercial viability of transactions is implicit in the fact that an additional freighter has been deployed on 06 March 2020.
- Planning in advance, daily coordination was taken up with agri-exporters, APEDA, MPEDA, horticulture boards, brokers/agents, airports and airlines. Resultantly, about 2,800 tonnes of agri-produce, particularly mangoes, fruit and vegetables, was exported to Europe, Middle East, South-East Asia, Hongkong etc.
- Operation Greens Scheme has been implemented in co-ordination with Ministry of Food Processing Industries extending 50% rebate in airlines freight charges & Cargo Terminal Operators Terminal, Storage & Processing charges for 41 Fruits & Vegetables at airports in North Eastern & Himalayan States / UTs.
- Airlifting agri-produce for better value realisation for farmers Convergence between “Operation Greens” Scheme and Krishi Udaan was achieved with subsidy @50% on air freight and @50% on Terminal, Storage and Processing (TSP) at airports announced by M/o Food Processing Industries on 02/11/2020 on 41 eligible fruits and vegetables when airlifted from 12 NER and Himalayan States/UTs. The online filing of subsidy claims by Indian airlines was finalised with GoLive on 01/12/2020.
- Domestic and international aviation cargo/supply chains were strengthened by announcing measures for ease of doing business during unprecedented lockdown conditions across the entire supply chains extending from shipper, airline carriers, ground-handlers, airports, customs brokers/agents, and surface logistics. These included 50% waiver of demurrage to incentivise the removal of non-essential air cargo from airports, extensions of permits/approvals beyond 31 March 2020 (year-closing} , deferral of IATA payments for cargo agents, etc.
Some other notable actions initiatives against COVID19:
- Taking up regulatory measures through DGCA, BCAS, AAI, AAICLAS, etc. to encourage domestic airline carriers to take up all-cargo flights by converting some of their grounded passenger aircraft.
- Setting up door-to-door deliveries through air cargo mode with monitoring and follow through for the following:
- Reagents, medical kits, etc. to/from ICMR and path labs countrywide through their freight forwarder/customs broker (M/s Jeena & Co.) as per the requirements of M/o HFW and D/o Pharmaceuticals through ‘Lifeline Udan’ for domestic G2G movements of medical cargo to meet the requirements conveyed by state governments using Air India and Alliance Air, and Pharma, foodstuff and essential commodities required by the household and private sector (hospitals, etc}, and also raw materials and machinery required by the Indian pharmaceuticals and medical equipment manufacturing industry using all public and private airline carriers and air cargo community.
- Setting up a system to airlift the supplies of PPE Kits etc. procured by the Government through the Indian Embassy in China and High Commissioner of India at Singapore. 360 tonnes was airlifted by mounting 18 flights of Air India, Blue Dart Aviation and Spice Express to Guangzhou in China.
- The first Land-Air multimodal export of about 4 tonnes of vegetables from Varanasi to London was successfully implemented.
- No permission – No Take off flight facilitation: MoCA had issued Order dated 03.04.2020 for facilitating the flights by ‘No Permission – No Take-off’ (NPNT) compliant drones in six designated zones, one each in the States of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal.
- Impact of Locust on Aviation– This circular was released to provide guidance to operators, pilots, engineers and ATCOs for safeguarding aviation assets and activities, from the abnormally large presence of locusts in the country.
- Air-Suvidha: A web portal- Air Suvidha has been started for filling of Self Reporting Form by all International Arriving Passengers to India and also for processing exemption requests from institutional quarantine requirement from passengers fulfilling prescribed conditions.
- Disinvestment of Air India & PHL- EOI has been floated for both the enterprises and disinvestment is under process.
- UDAN Scheme shortlisted under final round for Prime Minister’s Awards for
Excellence in Public Administration 2020 – UDAN (Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik) Scheme under the category Innovation (General) Central has been shortlisted for final round consideration by the Empowered Committee chaired by the Cabinet Secretary for Prime Minister’s
Awards for Excellence in Public Administration 2020.
- Inauguration of Water Aerodromes at Staute of Unitv. Kevadia & Sabarmati River
Front and flagging off of first seaplane operations by Hon’ble Prime Minister:- Hon’ble Prime Minister inaugurated two water aerodromes i.e. Statue of Unity, Kevadia & Sabarmati River Front on 31st October. 2020 and sea plane operations under RCS-UDAN between these two water aerodromes.
- Commencement of UDAN 4 Bidding Process: 78 new routes have been identified and approved under 1st phase of UDAN 4.0, focusing on North Eastern States, Hilly areas and Islands. RCS cell, AAI is in the process of awarding these identified routes to Selected Airline Operators (SAOs). Once the identified routes of RCS”-UDAN version 4.0 are awarded, the total valid RCS routes awarded would be 766. Till 15th Jan 2021, 311 UDAN routes & 54 airports (including 5 heliports and 2 water aerodromes) have been operationalised.
- Successful implementation of PPP Model: With regards to Operation, Management and Development of six AAI Airports under Public Private Partnership (PPP) have been finalised, 12 are under process.
- The Aircraft (Amendment) Bill, 2020: The bill was passed by LoK Sabha on 17.03.2020 and Rajya Sabha on 15.09.2020. President’s assent was accorded to the Bill on 19.09.2020. Subsequently, the Aircraft (Amendment) Act, 2020 was published in the Gazette of India on 20.09.2020. The Aircraft Act, 1934 has been amended to interalia, give proper recognition to the civil aviation regulators under the Act, to enhance the maximum quantum of fines, empower the departmental officers to impose financial penalties on individuals or organisations involved in violations of the legal provisions, compounding of offences, include certain areas of air navigation services for rule making purpose under section 5 of the Act and to keep the aircraft belonging to armed forces of the union outside the purview of the Act.
- Draft National Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Traffic Management Policy finalised and published for public consultation.
- Issue of CAR (Civil Aviation Requirements) SECTON 5 SERIES ‘X’ PART I, ISSUE II, 10th November 2020, on “Safety Hazard-Use of Portable Electronic Devices inside the flight”: Ministry of Communications vide their Gazette notification notified “Flight and Maritime Connectivity Rules-2018” for in Flight and Maritime Connectivity. This allows the use of voice or data or both through Wi-Fi for internet services through Wi-Fi in aircraft, which will be made available when aircraft above height of 3000 meters (10000 ft) and electronic devices are permitted to be used only in airplane mode. To allow the use of internet services through Wi-Fi on board the aircraft with the above restrictions, DGCA amended Rule 29 B of The Aircraft Rules, 1937. Same was notified through GSR 142 (E) dated 21.02.2020. CAR Section 5 Series X Part I on the subject “Safety Hazard – Use of Mobile/Cellular Telephones inside the aircraft during flight” is issued for following reason:
In conformance to Department of Telecommunication Rule 2018 and amendment to Rule 29 B of Aircraft Rule 1937, CAR is amended to enable all applicable service providers for the use of voice or data or both through Wi-Fi for internet services in aircraft at height above 3000 meters (10000 ft). Electronic devices will be permitted to be used in airplane mode only.
- Amendment: “CAR Section 2 Series I part VI Issue 03 rev. 01 dated 24.11.2020” lays down the requirements for fitment of Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) & Cockpit Audio Recording System (CARS) on aircraft registered in India and aircraft leased and imported into the country. This CAR has been reviewed and revised/amended the requirement of CVR (which shall retain the information recorded during at least the last 25 hours of its operation) on all aeroplanes with maximum certified take off mass of over 27000 kg for which the individual certificate of airworthiness is first issued on or after 1 January 2022, in line with the latest National Civil Aviation Requirement.
- Rajiv Gandhi National Aviation University: The University has launched its first Undergraduate programme i.e. Bachelor of Management Studies in Aviation Services and Air Cargo, during November, 2020. Also the second batch of Post Graduate Diploma in Airport Operations has commenced from November, 2020.
- India to become hub for MRO: Further to the rationalisation of the tax regime for MROs w.e.f. 1 April 2020, considerable interest is being seen by Indian airlines in using Indian MROs and; foreign OEMs in setting up MRO facilities in India. Notable investments in new ventures include Pratt & Whitney, USA, in a tie-up with AIESL (Air India’s engineering subsidiary) involving Engine MRO, Collins, USA, in a tie-up with AIESL for Component MRO, and; greenfield Engine MRO by Safran, France.
- Convergence between Defence MRO and Civil Sector MRO for economies of scale: A Joint MoCA-DPP Working Group has been formed to undertake facility mapping and draw up areas and resources that can be shared for achieving convergence. It met on 10 and 13 July 2020 with participation of defence and civil industry stakeholders. In July 2020, civil MRO activities include: IAF has committed sending 10 MI-17 helicopters to Pawan Hans Ltd’s MRO facility, MI-17 weapons modification and interior refurbishment/upgrade (19 nos. has been bid for); on 20 Avro aircraft, fuel tank-related MRO carried out; Dornier aircraft (145 nos.) structural refurbishment has been taken up; and Heavy maintenance on 02 defence VVIP aircraft, and modification of seats of 06 VVIP helicopters is also underway.
Investment in a 2-hangar base/heavy maintenance facility for narrow-bodied aircraft tied up at Kochi Airport by a private MRO. Operations to be commenced by November 2020. Indian airframe MRO capability now utilized by Indian and foreign carriers as well as foreign lessors for difficult and high-value end-of-lease checks. New business of aircraft parts harvesting has been taken up, and the parting of a grounded aircraft B-777-ER is being carried out by an Indian MRO. New business of long-term aircraft storage-cum-maintenance contracted by an Indian MRO with a foreign airline, where under 02 aircraft have arrived in October 2020, and balance 06 aircraft would arrive by end-December 2020
- Steps taken for utilization of the Space Technology based tools and applications in Governance and Development: AAI is in the process of awarding the contract to M/s Satsure for implementing “iNetra”, a custom built geospatial big data platform to store and process the tabular and spatial data generated by AAI, particularly to support the activities under taken by the Authority towards transitioning to Airport Information Management. M/s Satsure is a startup organization and they have been sanctioned a grant for Idea to POC by AAI under the AAI startup policy.
- Aircraft Leasing and Financing: Two concrete proposals to set up operations in IFSC, Gift City, one from an Indian aviation company, and another from an Ireland-registered company which has experience of providing aircraft asset management services from India, have now been taken up with handholding and facilitation. Along with participation of DGCA, IFSCA, and GIFT-City, the rules and procedures for setting up a financing and leasing company at IFSC are being drafted. The issues and deliverables have been identified for the two regulators (DGCA and IFSCA) in discussion with stakeholders, while others identified are being taken up with Customs, RBI and other Government Departments concerned.
- Bids invited by Airports Authority of India for operating Flying Training Organisations at the first batch of 6 airports, Belagavi, Jalgaon, Kalaburgi, Khajuraho, Lilabari and Salem on 29 Nov 2020 under the liberalised Flying Training Trganisation (FTO) policy issued by Government of India.
- Growth in Air Cargo: Going beyond “normalisation” to pre-Covid-19 air cargo handled levels seen during September, October and November 2020 at Bengaluru airport (among 9 major airports which together handle about 90% of total air cargo), positive growth of 7% was seen in December 2020 over December 2019 levels. Growth is also recorded in multiple tier-U and tier-Ill airports. Pan-India, air cargo handled in December 2020 is estimated at about 88% of December 2019 levels.
- Open Access Aviation Fuel Facility (AFF) at Bhubaneswar Airport: In principal approval for this pilot project at Bhubaneswar Airport accorded on nomination basis to M/s Indian Oil Sky tanking Pvt. Ltd. The Draft Concession Agreement, DPR & Financial Model submitted by M/s IOSL examined by the committee and recommended for consideration of the pilot project. As per the recommendation of the duly constituted committee a consultant is being appointed for finalizing the Concession and Operating Agreement for AFF at Bhubaneswar Airport and also to provide transaction advisory services for creation of open access AFF at 04 (Chennai, Kolkata and other Airports) more Airports of AAI. Accordingly, consultancy work is awarded to Mis Ernst & Young LLP on 17th Jan. 2020.
- In-flight Wi-fi services: Rule 298 of the Aircraft Rules 1937 has been amended through notification dated 28.02.2020 which inter-alia provides an enabling provision for usage of internet services in-flight through Wi-Fi on board in all domestic and international aircraft in Indian airspace when the aircraft is flying above 3000 meters.
- DigiSky Platform: In order to facilitate the identification of civil drones and drone operators, another opportunity for voluntary disclosure of such drones and drone operators has been provided to persons in possession of drones vide Public Notice dated 08.06.2020 through the DigiSky platform, wherein a Drone Acknowledgement Number (DAN) and Ownership Acknowledgement Number (OAN) are generated instantly on successful uploading of the required information.
- Survey of India has been granted exemption vide Order dated 11.06.2020 for large scale mapping of inhabited areas of villages using drones under Central Sector Scheme “SVAMITVA”. This Ministry has given relaxation to Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare on 27.06.2020 for use of engine powered Remotely Piloted Aircraft System and night operations for anti-locust operations.
- Circular Revised: OC 02/2020, Rev 3 dt. 08th July 2020 – “COVID 19 AND EXTENSION OF RECURRENT/REFRESHER TRAINING/FSTD APPROVAL”: Due to International travel embargo on account of COVID-19 pandemic pilots are not able to go abroad to comply with the recurrent training requirements as most of the Approved Training Organisation (ATOs) are situated abroad. So, ibid Operations circular has been revised to provide extension of recurrent training /checks to cater to industry requirements. In the revised OC, as per weight category of aircraft, three different appendices have been included and operators have been advised to adopt a Safety Risk Management approach as per State Safety Programme while applying for exemptions/extensions to their operation to achieve acceptable means of compliance and Safety.
- E-GCA & E-BCAS: The two portals were launched for ease of doing business.