May 2, 2013

India has long been a critical crossroads for travelers the world over, and that is especially true when the road is 35,000 feet above ground. But flying to and over India has been fraught with regulation and the kind of advance planning that can interfere with the immediacy afforded by business aviation.

At issue has been the long lead-time required for both landings and overflights. To obtain landing clearance in India requires seven working days, and overflights require three working days’ notice.

Now that appears to be changing, thanks in part to efforts by NBAA and its International Operators Committee.

“Obviously, depending on when you initiate a request, it could take 11 days or longer,” said Lex den Herder, a member of the NBAA International Operators Committee. “That can cause huge problems for some operators who obviously try to operate with much more flexibility than that.

“We initiated this process back in late 2010, about the time President Barack Obama made his trip to India. We started working with the U.S. India Business Council USIBC] in Washington, DC, and the Indian Business Aircraft Operators Association,” added den Herder.

That led to a June 2011 letter to India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) signed by USIBC President Ron Somers and NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen, asking the DGCA director to consider streamlining the clearance procedures for overflights and landings in India.

Three weeks later, as the featured speaker at a luncheon in Washington DC, Nasim Zaidi, then India’s secretary of civil aviation, addressed the request from NBAA and USIBC and indicated that he agreed with the points of the letter and had instructed DGCA to initiate a study of the issues.

The study was conducted in early 2012, and in November 2012 it was unofficially indicated that the shortening of lead times would be approved.

“Now, we’ve gotten word that this has been approved and, in fact, that the DGCA has been notified by the cabinet secretariat to issue a civil aviation regulation (CAR) in this regard,” said den Herder. “We expect this to be published in the very near future.”

Preliminary information indicates the new CAR would reduce the lead-time for landings from seven working days to three. Notice of overflights would be reduced to a single business day, den Herder said.

“We understand that there will be a trial period of six months, after which, depending on how well the new process works, there could be further reduction in the advance notice requirement,” he added. “We will have to wait to see what DGCA stipulates in the new CAR.”

Both the Indian government and aviation industry – domestic and foreign – played a big hand in the effort to bring about change in India’s clearance procedures, den Herder said.

“It’s been a huge effort, not only on the part of NBAA, USIBC and BAOA [India’s Business Aircraft Operators Association], IBAC and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA), but this also incorporated various operators and OEMs as well, who agreed to convey the specifics of the difficulties they were encountering because of the lengthy clearance requirements,” said den Herder.