First woman chief of aviation regulator takes charge

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India’s first woman chief of aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) M. Sathiyavathy took charge Thursday from erstwhile incumbent Prabhat Kumar.

According to a civil aviation ministry official, the 1982-batch Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer of the Union Territories (UT) cadre will head DGCA for three years till 2017.

However, Sathiyavathy might have to relinquish her DGCA charge, as she is due to be elevated to Secretary-level later this year.

Sathiyavathy had served as additional secretary and financial advisor in the ministry since Jan 30 2014. Before that she had served as Puducherry’s chief secretary.

The ministry official further said, that the Prabhat Kumar, a 1985 batch IAS officer of the Uttar Pradesh cadre, will revert to his home state.

He had joined the civil aviation ministry in 2012 as an officer on special duty to then aviation minister Ajit Singh.

Prabhat Kumar had been appointed DGCA chief in January 2014, for a three-year term.

Sathiyavathy’s appointment comes as the DGCA is trying to regain from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) its Category-I safety status from the downgraded category-II.

On Jan 31 2014, the FAA had downgraded India’s safety rankings and brought it on par with countries like Bangladesh, Barbados, Ghana and Nicaragua.

The downgrade had hit operations of the Indian passenger carriers like Air India and Jet Airways which fly directly to the US, as their aircraft had to undergo additional safety checks and stringent scrutiny before entering US airspace.

The Indian passenger carriers were also not been able to add more flights to the US or enter into any code share agreement with US-based carriers.

Recently, a FAA team visited India to review DGCA’s safety mechanism. The FAA team is expected to take a call on whether to upgrade the safety rankings or not.

The other pressing issue in front of Sathiyavathy will be that of SpiceJet’s truncated operations and its effects on stranded passengers.

SpiceJet is currently in talks with the new promoters and has submitted a financial revival plan to the ministry. It has reduced operations from 345 flights a day to 230 services.

It has also reduced its fleet size and is now operating only 18 aircraft from a fleet size of 35 planes.