Sudipta Dev – Mumbai
|Gp Capt R K Bali|
Business aviation sector in India had witnessed growth that started in 2004-2005 and peaked in 2007, when the growth rate was at 26 per cent. The last one and a half years have seen negative growth in the segment. According to Gp Capt RK Bali, secretary, Business Aircraft Operators Association (BAOA), the key factors for slowdown has ranged from policy decisions to infrastructure issues. The overall factors include high fuel costs and airport charges, high taxes and regulation issues. He points out that while non-scheduled operators and scheduled airlines have similar problems like high fuel cost, for airport charges the nomenclature is common, which should not be so, particularly for helicopters.
Then there are management issues. “There are 135 non-scheduled operators in India , almost 70 per cent of them have one-two aircraft. You need to have full infrastructure for one-two aircraft, while the same facilities can take care of five-six aircraft. There is a consolidation problem,” stated Bali. BAOA has recommended allowing a professionally managed company to get registered, which can take care of at least seven to 10 aircraft. Bali pointed out that overseas there are many such professionally managed companies which significantly benefits the sector.
Consolidation will also help in manpower issues. Now pilots are engaged by individual operators and are paid the full salary of Rs 4-5 lakh per month despite the fact that they fly much less hours than scheduled aircraft pilots.
Regulatory factors also need to be addressed. “We are suggesting civil aviation to come out with requirements for business aviation segment. Our aim is to ensure sustainable growth. The growth of hinterland in India and regional connectivity was not thought of. There is nothing like a general aviation airport in India.” He is however optimistic of the growth potential. “Our first task is to change the mindset. We have a roadmap in front of us,” he added.
BAOA had recently met the directorate general of Civil Aviation to discuss the forward possibilities and safety concerns on the recent issue of non-schedule operators flying abroad. In a press statement Rohit Kapur, president, BAOA asserted that the ban on business jets should be lifted as soon as possible as it will result in significant losses not only for the sector but also for all enterprises using charter operations.