The term ‘aviation’ may refer to civil aviation or general aviation. ‘Civil aviation’ usually means aviation related to the military, and government and private airline companies. Aircrafts by private owners, private companies, flying clubs, etc. come under general aviation. Indian general aviation is rapidly growing. Companies with their own aircraft have an edge over their competitors as they can save on the time spent travelling from one place to another using airports with heavy traffic. Another advantage is that they can use their aircraft to fly to destinations not served by civil aviation. Helicopters have a higher potential when compared to airlines as they can reach places that other aircraft cannot.
In India helicopters have the potential to be used more efficiently. Currently they operate from airports. India does not have heliports or heli-routes. The lack of infrastructure is a major drawback when it comes to general aviation. There are no Fixed Base Operators (FBO) terminals for general aviation. There are only very few agencies managing ground handling. Lack of proper maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) is also a concern.
There are a number of regulations that make owning a private aircraft difficult. For instance, many government agencies such as Ministry of Civil Aviation and Airport authority of India are involved in the procedure to get a private aircraft. The 25% duty increases the cost of owning an aircraft. In metro areas, there are restrictions on when can the aircraft be operated. This often fails the purpose of a privately owned aircraft.
There are not enough qualified professionals to handle the jobs within the general aviation industry. The few flying schools in India are not producing enough pilots to serve the industry. Apart from pilots, there are a number of jobs such as an aviation engineer, air traffic controller, flight engineer and aviation technician that need qualified candidates. The universities are unable to meet the needs of the industry.
A number of companies of international repute are planning to open aviation service centres and warehouses in the major cities in India, such as Mumbai and Delhi. For instance, GE Aviation and Air India are joining to set up a maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facility in India’s commercial capital, Mumbai. Hawker Beechcraft is also setting up a service centre in Mumbai.
Misconceptions, lack of awareness and problems in communication between the government and the public, along with the drawbacks in infrastructure are the major hurdles in the growth of general aviation in India. With some changes in the government policy, and a clear vision and commitment, the general aviation industry in India will be able to reach its full potential.