The move is expected to provide a fillip for the government’s ambitious efforts to boost regional air connectivity as it gives more leeway for operators in expanding their fleet. Till now, aircraft that are more than 15 years old were not allowed to be imported.
As part of larger efforts to improve the ease of doing business in the domestic aviation sector, which has huge growth potential, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has made changes to rules that had come into effect way back in July 1993.
With the revised norms, pressurised aircraft that are not over 18 years old or those which have not completed 50 per cent of design economic pressurisation cycle can be imported. A pressurised aircraft is one which is equipped to handle cabin pressure at an altitude of above 10,000 feet. Such planes should not have completed “15 years of age or 75 per cent of design economic life or 45,000 pressurisation cycle”.
The regulations would be applicable for entities having scheduled, non-scheduled and general aviation operations. “Considering that modern commercial air transport jet aircraft are significant economic assets that can have an effective economic useful life of decades, the restriction imposed on import of aged aircraft is cautiously revised,” the latest CAR signed by DGCA chief M Sathiyavathy said.
In this regard, changes have been made in the relevant norms or Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR) effective from June 17. “Aircraft intended to be imported for air cargo operations shall not have completed 25 years in age or 75 per cent of its design economic cycles or 45,000 landing cycles,” it noted.
The regulator also said that studies were conducted by international aviation community on the correlation between fatal accidents and age of the aircraft. “Such studies have not clearly established that there is a correlation between accident rate and aircraft age up till 18 years,” it added.
With respect to unpressurised aircraft, the decision would be taken on a case to case basis after examining the record of the plane that is to be procured from overseas. “However, DGCA would normally not allow such aircraft which are more than 20 years old,” it said.
The watchdog noted that aircraft intended to be imported and used for scheduled commercial operations should have their design economic calendar and operational life clearly established by the holder of type certificate, among other requirements.
“It must be appreciated that normally manufacturers of jet aircraft prescribed a design economic life for their aircraft which extend to 20 years or 60,000 landings/pressurisation cycles,” DGCA said.
According to the regulator, the minimum standard for aircraft life is set to ensure that the plane does not have problems such as corrosion, fatigue, and cracks in areas which are normally not accessible during even major checks.