New Delhi: Domestic airlines might soon be allowed to import aircraft that are up to 18 years old, with aviation watchdog DGCA proposing to ease the norms as government looks to boost regional air connectivity.

Currently, local carriers are not allowed to import aircraft that are more than 15 years old. For making the relaxation, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has proposed changes to a more than two-decade old regulatory framework pertaining to aircraft imports. The proposal to relax the aircraft import requirements comes at a time when the government is in the final stages of preparing the new aviation policy that would focus on improving regional air connectivity, among other areas.

The watchdog has proposed that pressurised aircraft that are to be imported should not have “completed 18 years of age or 50% of operating cycle".

A pressurised aircraft is one which is equipped to handle cabin pressure at an altitude of above 10,000 feet. Besides, such aircraft should not have completed “15 years of age or 75% of design economic life or 45,000 pressurisation cycle".

These norms, once in place, would be applicable for use in scheduled, non-scheduled and general aviation operations. With respect to un-pressurised aircraft, the decision on whether to give approval for import or not would be taken on a case to case basis after complete examination of the record of the particular aircraft being procured.

Normally, DGCA does not allow import of un-pressurised aircraft that are more than 20 years old. “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," the regulator said.

Changes are being suggested to the Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR) related to ‘Age of aircraft to be imported for scheduled/non-scheduled including charter, general aviation and other operations’. This CAR was issued way back in 1993.

The latest amendments have been proposed after detailed consultations amongst technical experts in the DGCA.

According to the regulator, since the publication of the CAR more than two decades ago, 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 eighteen years," DGCA said.

“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."

Generally, jet aircraft makers prescribe a design economic life for their planes which extend to 20 years or 60,000 landings/ pressurisation cycles. A minimum standard for aircraft life is prescribed to ensure that the plane does not have problems of corrosion, fatigue, metal fatigue and cracks, among others, in areas which are normally not accessible during even major checks.

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