Union Minister of Civil Aviation, P. Ashok Gajapathi Raju in an exclusive interview to SP’s Aviation outlined how the government is trying to understand the needs of the industry and how it is trying to address them, through the National Civil Aviation Policy which is awaiting the approval of the Union Cabinet
The signs are evident. The civil aviation scene in India is undergoing a major transformation, after a sceptical decade gone by, during which time some airlines took to the skies and vanished. Since the last couple of years, the civil aviation sector is riding high on a new-found hope, hope that has come in the form of a proactive government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. There is a sense of general well-being, a sense of progressive reforms taking precedence and a sense of doing.
Reflecting this positive approach is the Union Minister of Civil Aviation, P. Ashok Gajapathi Raju who, in an exclusive interview to SP’s Aviation, has outlined how the government is trying to understand the needs of the industry and how it is trying to address them, through the National Civil Aviation Policy which is awaiting the approval of the Union Cabinet. Dwelling on several issues, the Minister specifically pauses on the agenda of enhancing regional connectivity, a subject which the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had outlined in its election manifesto. India which has the largest network of rail system, has the potential to be among the top countries to have good air connectivity, provided mainline, regional and general aviation are factored in the development plans.
The industry is gung-ho about the prospects. The US aerospace and defence behemoth, Boeing, is betting big on India and its Senior Vice President, Dinesh Keskar, in an exclusive interaction has not only spelt out the company’s strategy for India but also indicated on airline capacity building to stay on course, while cautioning on overcapacity.
Airlines are returning to profitability, thanks to the falling price of aviation turbine fuel, and this is the time for them to explore markets. Hence, 2016 will be keenly watched as it opens up a plethora of opportunities for the aviation sector. While benefiting from the crash in oil price, the airlines need to give attention to safety of the aircraft and the passenger and also improve upon efficiencies. This mantra is universal. There are going to be many aircraft acquisitions in the not so distant future, opening up opportunities for manufacturing, MRO, training and creating employment opportunities, particularly to the many pilots who are up for grabs in the marketplace.
The year 2015 ended with some good tidings for the Indian armed forces. During a visit by Prime Minister Modi to Russia, an agreement between the two countries to manufacture in India, in collaboration with the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), 200 Kamov Ka-226T light utility helicopters was signed. Apart from the fact that this is a major step forward for the ‘Make in India’ campaign of the Indian Prime Minister, it would be a matter of immense relief for the Indian armed forces that have for long been struggling to find a replacement for the obsolescent fleets of Cheetah and Chetak helicopters. The foundation stone to create a new facility for this project at Tumkur near Bengaluru has also been laid by the Prime Minister. A report on the Kamov Ka-226T deal by Group Captain A.K. Sachdev (Retd) is included in this issue.
The other possible piece of news that could be heartening for the IAF would be the finalisation of the contract for the 36 Rafale jets that the French Government had agreed to sell to India through an inter-governmental agreement in April 2015 when Prime Minister Modi was on a state visit to France. It is understood that the contract negotiations that have gone on for nearly nine months are likely to be finalised soon. There is a faint hope that the final word on this will be said soon and the contract is signed during the visit of the French President to India. Or at least there will be significant forward movement.
All this and more apart from the regular features. Welcome aboard and happy landings!