Saturday, July 13, 2024

Defence airstrips may allow foreign pvt jets

New Delhi: Private jets registered in a foreign country may no more require the defence ministry’s approval for using a few airports owned by the Indian armed forces, Mint has learnt. The aviation ministry is pushing for relaxation of norms to ensure hassle-free movement of jets.

According to existing rules, Air Operations Routine Order (AOR) numbers are required to land on any airstrip owned by the defence forces, in addition to the YA clearance, or a landing and take off permit.

While the YA clearance is given by civil aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation, owners of private jets are required to submit applications to get an AOR from the air force or navy headquarters, as the case may be, 20-30 days prior to the flight schedule.

“A dialogue took place between the civil aviation ministry and defence ministry regarding waiving off AOR requirements for foreign-registered private jets. The idea is to ease the process of non-scheduled aircraft operations in the country, especially as some of these civil enclaves are major magnets for inbound tourism and trade,” an official aware of the development said requesting anonymity.

Rules require a jet operator to submit applications to the armed forces unit operating the airport with full details of the foreign pilots and passengers along with their passport numbers and other details at least 20 days in advance.

If the existing rules are withdrawn it will come as a respite for the rich and famous visiting India, besides various tourist charters operating to and from these airports.

In India, over 20 civil enclaves (airports owned by the armed forces but also used for civil flights) such as the Dabolim airport in Goa, Hindon, Srinagar, Jodhpur, Pune, Chandigarh, and Gwalior.

“It remains to be seen what the defence ministry finally decides on this. Considering that DGCA’s YA approval or prior permission is already in place for the foreign-registered, non-scheduled flights from civil enclaves, if AOR can be done away with, at least at for some airports, it will ease the process,” a second person aware of the development said, requesting anonymity.

In 2017, the central government ended the practice of obtaining DGCA’s prior permission or YA number for Indian-registered private jets for flying abroad. The flight plan, however, must still be cleared by respective air traffic controller, which operates under the Airports Authority of India (AAI).

Foreign-registered non-scheduled aircraft operations came into scrutiny after the infamous Purulia arms drop case on 17 December 1995, when unauthorised arms were dropped from an Antonov An-26 aircraft in West Bengal’s Purulia district.

Since the onset of the covid-19 pandemic, travel via private jets has increased, with several high net-worth individuals and corporates looking to opt for a safe and comfortable journey.

In 2022, the civil aviation ministry decided to allow fractional ownership of business jets and helicopters to spur the growth of non-scheduled operations in the country. This allows owners to fly a fixed number of hours per year based on their investments.

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