Sport aviation provides a proving ground for new aviation concepts and technology. Many of the aircraft and air-sports equipment is not designed or built to any recognised civil aviation standard and many of the activities are only allowed through exemptions to the regulations – to make for regulatory requirements which are proportional to the risk posed by the sport to the third party.
Therefore, there is a reduced level of assumed safety which is proportional to the sports but is still way lower than the risk posed by say a passenger car. This is further fuelled by rapidly changing technology and equipment. The regulations would have to keep up to date with changing technology. Hence the requirement to regulate by the experts themselves.
Also Read: Govt accepting feedback on Draft National Air Sports Policy, 2022; making the sports affordable, accessible, and sustainable for all
The draft document has addressed quite a few issues which were needed to be ironed out for air sports to prosper in the country but unfortunately, the governance model proposed in the policy is flawed. This model is unfavorable to air-sports
Requirement of experts’ consideration
Across the world, air sports are regulated and governed by the association of the air-sport under the authority of the regulatory body of the country. Examples are the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. These models have been around for quite some time and have proved to be mature and successful. Most of the air-sports are presently controlled by the commercial lobby where the capital investments are low and the gains are high.
Considering that India would have to play catch up with the rest of the world, a well-thought-out plan has to be followed if India has to be the hub by 2030. In my opinion, the immediate requirement is to set up a National Federation of Air-sports which comprises experts in the field to formulate the regulations as per international best practices.
The reason I suggest this model and not the one which is followed in other countries is because we are still not mature enough. People are currently just taking to air- sports without a comprehensive technical understanding of design, performance, limitations, and special requirements for both pilot, equipment, and environment. Education is abhorred.
Govt support and collaboration needed
The regulations drafted by the NFA and approved by the Govt can then be implemented by the State and district so that uniformity is achieved across the country and the standards are improved and brought up to the mark. A lot of recognized international organizations are willing to work with India to improve the standards of air sports. We should collaborate with them so that we don’t start at the bottom of the ladder.
One thing is clear we don’t lack the skill just the knowledge at this point. So why try and reinvent the wheel in-stead we should collaborate with the best, up to our game, and set high standards for the rest of the world to follow. The Govt should only provide the support and guidance so that associations are forced to follow the Global best practices. Due to a lack of knowledge across various states, the local associations have been misleading the state govt and creating a bad reputation for the country.
ACI has been associated with FAI since 1950 and has experts from air sports on its strength, including collaboration with a lot of international organizations, however, the policy appears to suggest the creation of a similar body from scratch. It is my opinion that the policymakers should revisit the document and support air sports with minimum government and maximum governance.
Anisha Suresh is Secretary-General of Aero Club of India
(Authors views are personal)