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Business jets fly into government headwinds

July 31, 2013 12:14 IST

Business jets fly into government headwinds

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Sharmistha Mukherjee in New Delhi

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has stopped issuing temporary landing permits (TLPs) to air crew of foreign-registered business jets, citing security concerns. 

This has severely affected the movement of general aviation aircraft into the country. 

Additionally, the government has made it mandatory for the crew of non-revenue flights of foreign-registered aircraft to have employment visa to fly within the country after landing in India.

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Image: Bombardier aircraft
Photographs: Courtesy, Bombardier.

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“Under annexure 9 of the Chicago Convention, as a member country of International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), we are required to facilitate the arrival of air crew into India. If there is a change in regulations, it has to be notified. India has not filed the change and has, at the same time, held that TLPs will now be issued only for scheduled airlines and not air crew of non-scheduled operators (NSOPs), due to security concerns. It has also made it mandatory for air crew to have employment visas for extended trips. This has affected movement of business jets,” said Rajesh Bali, secretary, Business Aircraft Operators’ Association (BAOA). 

NSOPs can only fly in with crew visas now which takes up to five weeks to process, depending on the country of application.

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Image: Gulfstream G550
Photographs: Courtesy, Gulfstream

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According to official data, as many as 24,000 general aviation aircraft movements were registered every month in the country in the last financial year. Sources indicated nearly 60 per cent of these flights had been affected due to change in regulatory norms. Most of these flights come in from the US, Canada and European countries.

Earlier, MHA, through the Bureau of Immigration, issued TLPs for up to 72 hours for air crew of foreign-registered NSOPs.

To fly within the country after landing, the NSOPs are required to secure permits for up to 15 days from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). For longer trips of up to 60 days, approvals have to be secured from the civil aviation ministry.

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Image: Interior of the Bombardier Challenger 604.
Photographs: Courtesy, Bombardier.

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Bali added: “With FDI norms being liberalised, there is a need for more business trips to India. Because of these changes, both business and tourism earnings are being hit. We have written to the government recommending if security concerns need to be addressed, advance passenger information system (APIS) could be made mandatory for NSOPs. This will enable MHA to scrutinise personally any passenger or crew flying in on business jets, as it happens in the case of scheduled airlines.” 

Alternatively, the industry body has recommended, if MHA intends to move to a framework where air crew of general aviation aircraft would be issued crew visa for 3-5 years to fly into the country (as is the norm in the US), in the interim, TLPs be continued to be issued till permanent regulations are determined and frozen. BAOA has approached DGCA and MHA to look into the issue. 

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Image: Challenger 300
Photographs: Courtesy, Bombardier

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The cancellation of general aviation flights have meant that airport operators at places like Delhi and Mumbai are losing out more than Rs 30,000 per aircraft in landing, parking and navigation charges (for up to 50 mt aircraft).

BAOA President Rohit Kapur said: “The general aviation fleet in India is significant, with around 750 aircraft, nearly double the operational fleet of scheduled airlines. But the problem is, there is no dedicated policy or regulatory framework or infrastructure to support it. The sector can facilitate movement of business houses into remote areas and become a key driver of economic growth. But there has to be recognition of the sector at the government level.”

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Image: Gulfstream G550
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CLIPPING WINGS?

The home ministry has stopped issuing temporary landing permits to air crew of foreign-registered business jets

MHA has also made it mandatory for air crew of non-scheduled operators registered abroad to have an employment visa to fly within India after landing

The regulatory changes have affected 60% of the 24,000 general aviation aircraft movement that take place every month

Industry fears loss of revenues in business and tourism due to the directive. Airport operators in metros stand to lose Rs 30,000 per aircraft in landing, parking and navigation charges per inbound general aviation flight cancelled


Image: Bombardier Challenger 300.
Photographs: Courtesy, Bombardier.
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