India has jumped to the 48th position in the global aviation safety ranking by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), according to DGCA officials. Four years ago, the country was ranked in the 102nd position.

The top five countries in the ICAO ranking are Singapore with a score of 99.69%, UAE with a score of 98.8%, South Korea (98.24%), France (96.42%) and Iceland (95.73%). The US was in 22nd place and Qatar at 25th place. China is in 49th place.

Others in the top ten are Australia (6th; 95.04%), Canada (7th; 94.95%), Brazil (8th; 94.72%), Ireland (9th; 94.6%) and Chile (10th; 93.9%), as per the DGCA officials.

The country’s score in terms of effective implementation of key safety elements has improved to 85.49%, putting it ahead of China (49), Israel (50), Turkey (54), Denmark (55) and Poland (60). India’s score in the 2018 Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme was 69.95%.

With a score of 85.49% each, India and Georgia are in the 48th position. Neighbouring Pakistan is at the 100th spot with a score of 70.39%.

Under its Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP) Continuous Monitoring Approach, an ICAO Coordinated Validation Mission (ICVM) was undertaken from November 9 to 16.

On Saturday, December 3, DGCA chief Arun Kumar said that the regulator has worked tirelessly to upgrade India’s safety ranking and the results are there. “Hopefully, we continue to remain vigilant and improve further”.

“Maintaining the new-found status is a challenge. We assure all our stakeholders that DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation) will leave no stone unturned to further improve India’s ranking. We have done well. Now the challenge lies in retaining the newfound status. DGCA is a bunch of extremely competent officials and we are confident that given proper support, we will improve further. A formal announcement on the result is expected soon.”

On November 16, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said the audit was conducted in the areas of legislation, organisation, personal licensing, operations, airworthiness and aerodromes.

“As per the initial reports, the mission was highly successful. India has done extremely well and our scores will see a substantial improvement putting us in the company of nations with the best safety standards and oversight systems,” it had said in a release.

The improved safety ranking will make it easier for Indian carriers to expand their wings abroad. Tata Group’s Air India and IndiGo have massive expansion plans. Airlines of countries with dubious aviation safety records find their aircraft being subjected to more surprise checks at airports abroad.

The higher ranking means that India has improved its air safety processes. Better aviation safety in home skies also allows Indian carriers to expand faster in overseas markets as permissions for new services are easier to get.

The United Nations agency conducted the audit from November 9 to 16 in areas including legislation, organisation, personal licensing, operations, airworthiness and aerodrome. “Two areas, aircraft accident and investigation and air navigation, were not audited by ICAO,” Kumar said.

“To check if rules were being followed, the team also visited Delhi airport, SpiceJet, a charter operator, air traffic control, communication navigation and surveillance,” he said.

India’s score for civil aviation organisation rose from 63.64% to 72.73%, personnel licensing and training from 25.58% to 84.71%, aircraft operations from 80.34% to 97.44%, airworthiness of aircraft from 90.20% to 97.06% and aerodrome and ground aids from 72.36% to 92.68%.

In the mission done last month in India, the Effective Implementation (EI) of six areas was assessed. They are LEG, ORG, PEL, OPS, AIR and AGA. LEG is Primary Aviation Legislation and Specific Operating Regulations; ORG is Civil Aviation Organisation; PEL is Personnel Licensing and Training; OPS is Aircraft Operations; AIR is Airworthiness of Aircraft, and AGA is Aerodrome and Ground Aid.

So far for India, the ICAO has done the Coordinated Validated Mission four times, including the last one in November this year. It did the mission in December 2012 that covered all the areas and the EI score rose from 79.84% to 81.32%.

The mission was next conducted in August 2013 that looked at two areas — OPS and AIR. At that time, the score improved from 79.73% to 81.19%. Another mission was done in November 2018. It covered LEG, ORG, AIG, ANS and AGA.

During that time, the EI score declined from 71.86% to 69.95%. AIG is Aircraft Accident and Incident Investigation; ANS is Air Navigation Services.

The ICAO looks at eight critical elements of the safety oversight system, including primary aviation legislation, specific operating regulations, resolution of safety issues and surveillance obligations.

In July, against the backdrop of various technical snags faced by domestic airlines, the DGCA chief had said they did not have the potential to cause havoc and that the country’s civil aviation space was “absolutely safe” and all the protocols laid down by the ICAO were followed.

In a series of tweets, the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) said the ICAO has given the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) the highest Effective Implementation (EI) score of 85.49%.

“India is now among the top 50 countries with best aviation safety according to the latest @icao rankings. This major breakthrough will also help Indian airlines to expand internationally,” it said.