India’s fastest growing and most successful airline–budget carrier IndiGo–has become the first victim of an October ruling by the country’s aircraft acquisition committee governing the number and kind of aircraft imported by airlines to encourage regional connectivity to smaller towns. In November the committee, led by civil aviation minister Ajit Singh, cleared for import only five of the 16 Airbus A320-series aircraft Indigo wanted to acquire.
Economy of India
Mahindra Aerospace, currently India’s only manufacturer of light aircraft for private/utility use, is preparing to open its new 270,000-sq-ft facility near Bangalore. This will be used for manufacturing metal components, aircraft assemblies and aerostructures, according to executive director and global CEO Arvind Mehra.
Business for general aviation providers in India is generally slow as the economy shows signs of slackening, yet 60-year-old Mumbai-based Air Works Engineering is looking at innovative ways to expand its business in India and abroad.
Striking pilots and engineers of India’s Kingfisher Airlines have accepted a three-month portion of their eight months of unpaid salaries and agreed to return to work, even as management struggles to get its suspended Scheduled Operator’s Permit reinstated. Still, civil aviation minister Ajit Singh warned that paying salaries alone would not guarantee that Kingfisher would fly again. “I think the Kingfisher problem is much bigger; even if they pay the salaries today, are they going to take off and fly? I don`t think so,” he said.
The western Indian state of Gujarat has what amounts to its first regional airline with the launch of Deccan Shuttles by G.R. Gopinath, who founded India’s first low-cost airline, Air Deccan, before selling it to Kingfisher Airlines. Scheduled operations started on August 27 using a pair of nine-seat Cessna 208B Grand Caravans. The turboprop singles ply the Ahmedabad-Surat-Bhavnagar and Ahmedabad-Kandla routes, marking the first-ever direct air service between provincial cities in this large state.
India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) expects to complete its second safety audit of that nation’s airlines by next month. The audits began with a look at Kingfisher Airlines and Air India Express because of ongoing labor issues at those airlines. The DGCA expects the first of these reports to be released soon.
Concerns over the safety oversight of financially struggling Kingfisher Airlines continue, even as the fleet–once 64 aircraft strong–has now shrunk to six A320s and five ATR 72s. The fleet reduction, driven largely by non-payment of leases, comes as a portion of the company’s pilots took strike action on August 18 to protest more than six months of back wages owed them by Kingfisher.
As highly taxed fuel, mounting debt and aggressive ticket pricing stifle the fledgling airline industry in India, the government seems ready to renege on its promise to allow foreign direct investment (FDI) in the country’s carriers. Current rules do not permit foreign airlines to invest in domestic carriers, although non-aviation-related investors can hold up to a 49-percent stake.
With its economic growth slowing, India is urging U.S. companies to invest in its aviation industry. At the recent U.S.-India Aviation Summit in New Delhi, Indian civil aviation minister Nasim Zaidi urged American firms to back plans for some $130 billion in investments over the next 10 to 15 years in areas such as airport infrastructure, maintenance, repair and overhaul facilities, cargo facilities and training centers. The Indian government is willing to see some 30 airports developed under joint ventures or public private partnerships (PPP). The country already permits 100-percent “foreign direct investment” (FDI) in airport projects and some 41 airport projects are already being conducted under PPP terms.
Shares in cash-strapped Indian carrier Kingfisher Airline fell by almost 18 percent on November 18 as company chairman Vijay Mallya worked to secure new short- and long-term funding amid reports of further routes being cut and flights cancelled. On November 17, Mallya confirmed that he is negotiating with an undisclosed high-net-worth individual in India with a view to injecting approximately $250 million into Kingfisher.