New Delhi: The operators of business jets and chartered aircraft can no longer fly to international destinations, India’s aviation regulator said after a global audit found in December last year that they were inadequately prepared for long-distance flights.

Nearly 125 Indian aviation firms that have business jets and charter aircraft cannot fly till they come back with a readiness plan, according to Arun Mishra, director general of civil aviation (DGCA). At least 44 of these operators fly overseas.

“Whenever they are prepared, they will come to us. We will do a structured evaluation," Mishra said. “Only then we will clear it, after a check of all their operations ground up."

The regulator, in a circular on Wednesday, made the deficiency public when it said, “It has now been decided that henceforth, no non-scheduled air operator permit (NSOP) holder shall be permitted to undertake international operations, unless the operator meets the aforesaid requirements for undertaking such operations, besides the requirements existing in" the rules prescribed by the directorate general of civil aviation.

India has the second largest business jet fleet of about 150 in the Asia-Pacific region, after China’s 200.

The total number of business jets and charter aircraft are about 800.

The accident record of charter aircraft in India has been worse than that of commercial airlines.

Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Dorjee Khandu was killed with four others after a Eurocopter helicopter operated by Pawan Hans crashed in bad weather in May 2011.

Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy died when his state government-owned Bell 430 helicopter crashed in a dense forest while flying to a village in Chittoor district in September 2009.

As many as 158 people died in India’s worst air crash in a decade in Mangalore in 2010 when an Air India Express flight IX-812 overshot a hilltop runway.

A business jet pilot, who declined to be named, said he has faced problems at several southeast Asian airports that refused landing to aircraft he was flying after the global audit findings of December.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (Icao), of which India is a member, completed an audit of the DGCA in December and found it wanting in its ability to oversee safety issues.

Icao, in its report, had identified a “significant safety concern with respect to the ability of this state (India) to properly oversee areas" under airworthiness and operations.

This issue needed a detailed investigation, which includes officers of the DGCA who dealt with the matter between 2006 and now, according to Mohan Ranganathan, an aviation analyst and a member of the government-appointed civil aviation safety advisory council.

“Then, try and find out how many of these operated these flights on behalf of politicians, actors, businessmen, etc., to Dubai and other tax havens. This will expose the nexus between DGCA and business jets and charters," he said.

“With the downgrade sword hanging over his head, the DGCA issues an order banning international flights by NSOPs as they were not even licensed for such operations. This was raised by Icao in December 2012, and it was also raised during the audit in 2006. Does it require a threat of blacklist and downgrade for a guardian of flight safety to act? This order clearly shows it was a firefighting action to soften the Icao team, which found serious deficiencies."

Officials from the UN aviation watchdog, which had clubbed India among 13 nations with the worst record for air safety oversight, were in India this month for a compliance audit of the Indian aviation regulator.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation had given Icao a corrective action plan that it intended to implement by June.

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