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New Delhi: The US’ Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA, has listed, after its early September audit of India’s civil aviation regulator and the country’s state-run airline, several areas for improvement, and although the Directorate General of Civil Aviation and Air India will not be able to meet the deadline for addressing these by late October or November when the report will be submitted, a former US transport regulator said it was unlikely that either would be downgraded by FAA.

FAA completed its audit on Friday and an official at DGCA admitted that some issues were raised but downplayed them.

“They were very satisfied with the operations of the airline (state-run Air India Ltd) but there will always be some findings. As auditors, their job is to find out (deficiencies) and not report what is already right," added this person who asked not to be identified.

FAA audits are critical because if the agency downgrades India on finding any serious irregularities that would mean no more new flights by Indian airlines to the US and additional checks on existing flights.

FAA spokeswoman declined comment on the matter.

It will also mean international expansion of Indian airlines will face unwanted questions in other countries.

Still, that fate is unlikely to befall India.

John Goglia, former member of the National Transportation Safety Board that investigates all aircraft accidents in the US, said in an email that India’ aviation regulator is unlikely to be downgraded by FAA.

“Even if the FAA finds safety issues, my opinion is that it will not downgrade India because of current geo-political considerations. Country rankings have not been free of diplomatic considerations in the past and I expect those considerations would continue," Goglia said. “If the FAA finds safety concerns, I believe it would quietly reach agreement with the DGCA on a programme to correct any such deficiencies."

Indeed, DGCA seems to think it has enough time to address the issues, and plans to discuss them with FAA in January, after the holiday season.

Among the issues raised by FAA are: lack of training for officials in DGCA and the absence of documented procedures for new types of aircraft being inducted into India.

Indeed, since Air India hasn’t maintained documents of its first flights with the new 787 aircraft, and fumbled to provide details, FAA believed there was something amiss, according to a second DGCA official who also asked not to be identified.

“There was only a lack of documentation," said the first DGCA official. “There is a cultural gap too. We don’t document everything. "

The official added that DGCA plans to induct about 100 officers to its headcount of about 350 and prepare training policies for its officials as part of its effort to address the issues raised by FAA.

FAA’s audit was triggered by an audit by UN body International Civil Aviation Organization or ICAO in December that had raised concerns on air safety oversight by India’s regulator.

ICAO removed India from its blacklist only in August after a compliance audit of DGCA’s mechanisms.

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