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Ready for takeoff: India’s aviation sector sets sights on growth despite bumpy start to 2024

India’s aviation regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), on January 24 fined Air India, a former national carrier now owned by the Tata conglomerate, 10.1 million rupees (US$135,000) for safety protocol violations in relation to their long-range and critical-terrain routes.

The penalty follows similar action against major carriers IndiGo and SpiceJet last month for various offences, including pilot shortages and security violations.

A pilot from a national pilots’ association, speaking on condition of anonymity, expressed concern about the sector’s lack of professionalism, citing systemic issues such as inadequate technological upgrades, constant pilot fatigue, and a limited understanding of safety regulations.

“Indian aviation is a ticking time bomb. We’re just inches from a major aviation disaster, given how pilots are treated and how passenger planes are operated,” said the senior pilot, who has been operating commercial flights for over 15 years.

“One doesn’t need to wait for a major incident for a wake-up call. The recent episodes highlight serious systemic problems,” he said.

But some analysts view the recent problems as seasonal or isolated incidents that do not accurately reflect the overall health of the aviation sector.

Harsh Vardhan, chairman of aerospace firm Starair Consulting in New Delhi, said air traffic disruptions occurred globally in adverse weather and described the issues as part of the learning curve for Indian airlines.

“This is the first full season after the Covid-19 outbreak. The airlines have to adjust, whether it’s manpower or machine,” Vardhan added.

Joshua Ng, director of Singapore-based Alton Aviation Consultancy, sees the recent developments as a learning opportunity for