GENERAL AVIATION IN INDIA

General Aviation, Not So General in India Image
Civil aviation in India is considered as only scheduled airlines. People in general not know much beyond scheduled airlines or Air force when it comes to Aviation. Whereas fact is as per latest DGCA data i.e. of 2018-19, only one-third of total aircraft registered in India belong to Scheduled airlines. Remaining two-third are distributed primarily among General Aviation. General Aviation refers to part of civil aviation that exclude scheduled commercial airlines. World over, General Aviation also known as GA supersedes scheduled airline by few times in terms of aircraft numbers. Since it is not a bulk passenger carrier, it is not much known to public at large. 

General Aviation in India primarily includes:

  • Charter Aircraft: Aircraft involved in charter operations under non-scheduled operations permit. 
  • Private Aircraft i.e. non-commercial use
  • Training Aircraft
  • Government Aircraft
  • Aero-sports 

Charter Aircraft are involved in commercial operations without a published schedule. Primarily, they are in to business of Air Ambulance, Point to Point luxury transport, joyrides and the like. In this category, small, medium and large aeroplanes, helicopters, survey aircrafts are included. 

Private Aircraft are like our personal cars. They are used for personal usage. Private aircraft in India are very limited due to heavy taxation on import of aircraft and high airport usage charges. Further, this particular segment has not been promoted by administration. Usually, such aircraft are owned by big corporations in India and are not within reach of even upper middle class.

Training Aircraft: In India a small percentage of demand for ab-initio Pilot training is catered. Presently, close to 32 flying training institute exist. Out of these few are not operational due to various reasons. Most of civilian pilots are trained outside India due to cheaper cost and quality of training. 

Government Aircraft: are those owned and operated by various state governments. Most of the states in India have their own aircraft for VIP movements of CM, Governor and other ministers and government staff. Some states have fleet of aircraft and helicopters whereas some are empty handed. 

Aero-Sports: these include hot air balloons, light sport, ultra-light aircraft, and the like.

 
PRESENT STATE OF GENERAL AVIATION IN INDIA

General Aviation condition in India is not a healthy state as of now. It seems all systems and infrastructure are designed and operated to support scheduled airlines or VVIP travel. Substantial policy level changes are essential to grow this important segment of aviation.

Charter Aircraft business in not a very performing one in Pre-covid situation. The pandemic has pushed this business a little with Government usage of the same for transporting medical samples and vaccines. Also, Air Ambulance business has increased due to pandemic. However, Charter aircraft attract heavy airport charges like landing & parking fee. Relaxation in taxation and airport charges are something that administration should do to help grow this service segment. 

Private aircraft numbers in India is a meager one. The number primarily includes aircraft belonging to big corporate houses. People with passion for flying cannot easily afford to own and operate even a small aircraft in India. Presently, tax on import on an aircraft for private use is very high making it completely nonviable to have one. Ironically, India do not have manufacturing capability to make one indigenously. Additionally, private aircraft attract higher charges at major airports operated by Airport authority or PPP driven airports. Tax relaxation for at least smaller aircraft below a seating capacity of 6 is very much required to increase such aircrafts. Increase in aircraft directly and indirectly generates employment. 

Pilot Training in India is in bad shape with shabby schools operating mostly age old aircraft due to heavy cost involved in procurement of latest aircraft. Airport fees also drags the schools. Lengthy and voluminous compliances are not easy to meet. There is a need to set quality standards and not document volume. 

Government aircraft does not have impact of unfavourable policies since the cost is billed to taxpayers and there is no concept of cost optimization.  

Aero-sports in India is in not a good shape. Reasons for the same is primarily lack of viable avenues and lack of awareness to this face of aviation among general public.

Some significant shift in policy is required by administration to make aviation ventures viable in India. Usage of aircraft interchangeably in multiple operator permit without much burden of documentation is one of the need of the time to make it a viable venture. We can surely use privilege of being in digital age to minimize chaotic documentation and more of smart automation. 

In this uncertain times, where scheduled airlines have been pushed back at least 5-7 years due to lack of traffic load resulting in job and pay losses, General Aviation can support the ecosystem.  

 *Author is an Indian Private Pilot and keen observer of Indian aviation market. He has flown with multiple flying training schools of India. He enjoys mentoring people who wish to be a commercial / hobby Pilot. He can be approached at info@jagaviation.in for consultation.

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