Aviation in India

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Aviation in India refers to the aviation industry of India. It can broadly be divided into military and civil aviation. According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), India is the fastest-growing aviation market[1].

The Government of India announced its draft National Civil Aviation Policy on 30 October 2015.


Civil Aviation in India traces back to 18 February 1911, when the first commercial civil aviation flight took off from Allahabad for Naini over a distance of 6 miles (9.7 km). During the Allahabad Exhibition Henri Pequet, a French aviator, carried 6,500 pieces of mail on a Humber-Sommer biplane from the exhibition to the receiving office at Allahabad, marking the world's first official airmail service.[1]


In December 1912, the first domestic air route between Karachi and Delhi was opened by Indian Air Services. Tata Sons Ltd., the first Indian airline, started a regular airmail service between Karachi and Madras three years later without any backing from the Indian government. On 15 October 1932, J.R.D. Tata flew a consignment of mail from Karachi to Juhu Airport. His airline later became Air India (AI).


In 1948, the Government of India and Air India set up a joint sector company, Air India International, to further strengthen the aviation industry of India. As part of nationalization in 1953, Indian Airlines (IA) brought the domestic civil aviation sector under the purview of the Indian government. Through the mid 1990s, government-owned airlines dominated the Indian aviation industry.[citation needed]

Open-sky policy

When the government adopted the open-sky policy in 1990, along with other liberalization policies, the Indian aviation industry underwent a rapid transformation following deregulation in 1994.[2]


The terrorist hijackings of 1971 Indian Airlines hijacking (1971), Indian Airlines Flight 427 (1993) and Indian Airlines Flight 814 (1999) pointed out security loopholes and led to demand for action to correct the loopholes.

Operation Raahat

Operation Raahat was an operation of the Indian Armed Forces to evacuate Indian citizens and other foreign nationals from Yemen during the 2015 military intervention by Saudi Arabia and its allies in that country during the Yemeni Crisis.[3] The evacuation by sea was started on 1 April 2015 from Aden port. The air evacuation was started by the Indian Air Force and Air India on 3 April 2015 from Sanaa. More than 4640 Indian citizens in Yemen were evacuated, along with 960 foreign nationals of 41 countries.[4] The air evacuation ended on 9 April 2015, while the evacuation by sea ended on 11 April 2015.[5][6][7]

Military aviation in India

The Indian Air Force, Indian Naval Air Arm and Army Aviation Corps are the air arms of the Indian armed forces. The Indian Air Force is the world's 4th largest air force with primary responsibility for securing Indian airspace and to conduct aerial warfare during a conflict. It was officially established on 8 October 1932 as an auxiliary air force of the British Empire, and the prefix Royal was added in 1945 in recognition of its services during World War II. Following the Indian Independence Act 1947, the new states of India and Pakistan became independent from the United Kingdom, the Royal Indian Air Force served the Dominion of India, with the prefix being dropped when India became a republic in 1950. Since independence, the IAF has been involved in four wars with neighbouring Pakistan and one with the People's Republic of China.[citation needed] Other major operations undertaken by the IAF include Operation Vijay, Operation Meghdoot, Operation Cactus and Operation Poomalai. Apart from conflicts in the subcontinent, the IAF has been an active participant in United Nations peacekeeping missions.

The President of India, Pranab Mukherjee,[when?] serves as the ex-officio Commander-in-Chief of the IAF. The Chief of Air Staff, an Air Chief Marshal (ACM), is a four-star commander and commands the Air Force. There is never more than one serving ACM in the IAF at any given time. The rank of Marshal of the Air Force has been conferred once, to Arjan Singh, by the President of India on 26 January 2002, and Singh became the first five-star rank-holding officer of the IAF and serves as its ceremonial chief.

In its publication the Military Balance 2010, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) estimated that the Indian Air Force has a strength of 127,000 active personnel. However, various reliable sources provided notably divergent estimates of its strength over the years. Flightglobal (Flight International) estimates there to be around 1,820 aircraft in service with the IAF: 905 combat planes, 595 fighters and 310 attackers.[8]

Market Size

India is the ninth largest civil aviation market in the world having a potential of becoming third largest aviation market by 2020. It recorded an air traffic of 163 million passengers in 2013, estimated to be 60 million international passengers by 2017. The market is also estimated to have 800 aircraft by 2020.[9] In 2015, Boeing projected India's demand for aircraft to touch 1,740, valued at $240 billion, over the next 20 years in India. This would account for 4.3 per cent of global volumes. According to Airbus, India will be one of the top three aviation markets globally in the next 20 years. Airbus is expecting an annual growth rate of over 11 per cent for the domestic market in India over the next ten years, while the combined growth rate for domestic and international routes would also be more than 10 per cent.[10]

Civilian regulation

Ministry of Civil Aviation is responsible for civilian aviation and Ministry of Defence is responsible for the Indian Air Force.

Aviation Policy

The Government of India announced its draft National Civil Aviation Policy on 30 October 2015, seeking suggestions for the same.[11][12] This policy inter alia focusses on expanding the open sky agreements and create a Regional Connectivity Fund.[13]

The Government is planning to develop a sustainable air network in over 400 tier-2 cities across India with an estimated expenditure of 50 crore (US$7.4 million).[14]

Ministry of Civil Aviation

The Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) of Government of India is the nodal Ministry responsible for the formulation of national policies and programmes for development and regulation of civilian aviation, and for devising and implementing schemes for the orderly growth and expansion of civilian air transport. Its functions also extend to overseeing airport facilities, air traffic services and carriage of passengers and goods by air. The Ministry also administers implementation of the 1934 Aircraft Act and is administratively is responsible for the Commission of Railways Safety.


The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) is the Indian governmental regulatory body for civil aviation under the Ministry of Civil Aviation. This directorate investigates aviation accidents and incidents.[15] It is headquartered along Sri Aurobindo Marg, opposite Safdarjung Airport, in New Delhi.[16] The government of India is planning to replace the organisation with a Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), modelled on the lines of the American Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).[17]

Airports Authority of India

AAI's implementation of Automatic Dependence Surveillance System (ADSS), using indigenous technology, at Kolkata and Chennai Air Traffic Control Centres, made India the first country to use this technology in the Southeast Asian region, thus enabling air traffic control over oceanic areas using a satellite mode of communication. Performance-based navigation (PBN) procedures have already been implemented at Mumbai, Delhi and Ahmedabad Airports, and are likely to be implemented at other airports in a phased manner. AAI is implementing the GAGAN project in technological collaboration with the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), where the satellite-based system will be used for navigation. The navigation signals thus received from the GPS will be augmented to meet the navigational requirements of aircraft. The first phase of the technology's demonstration system was completed in February 2008.[citation needed]

AAI has four training establishments: the Civil Aviation Training College (CATC) at Allahabad; the National Institute of Aviation Management and Research (NIAMAR) at Delhi; and the Fire Training Centres (FTC) at Delhi and Kolkata. An Aerodrome Visual Simulator (AVS) has been provided at CATC, and non-radar procedural ATC simulator equipment is being supplied to CATC Allahabad and Hyderabad Airport. AAI has a dedicated Flight Inspection Unit (FIU) with a fleet of three aircraft fitted with flight inspection systems to inspect Instrument Landing Systems up to Cat-III, VORs, DMEs, NDBs, VGSI (PAPI, VASI) and RADAR (ASR/MSSR). In addition to in-house flight calibration of its navigational aids, AAI undertakes flight calibration of navigational aids for the Indian Air Force, Indian Navy, Indian Coast Guard and other private airfields in the country.

AAI has entered into joint ventures at the Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Nagpur airports to upgrade these airports.


India’s aviation regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), and United States Technical Development Agency (USTDA) signed the Grant Agreement for India Aviation Safety Technical Assistance Phase II on 9 February 2016. Under the agreement, USTDA will partially fund improving systems at the DGCA. While USTDA’s assistance will be of $808,327, contractor firm The Wicks Group (TWG) would share the cost of assistance at $75,000.[18]


There are a total of 22 airlines which are operational in India as of 2015.[citation needed]


The PSU in Aviation sector are Air India and Pawan Hans.[clarification needed]


Listed companies in India's aviation sector are SpiceJet, IndiGo Airlines and Jet Airways.


Major private players are Air Asia, and Vistara.


The country currently has 33 "non-operational" airports, according to the Airports Authority of India.[2]

Indira Gandhi International Airport

Indira Gandhi International Airport serves as the primary civilian aviation hub for the National Capital Region of Delhi, India. The airport, spread over an area of 5,106 acres (2,066 ha), is situated in Palam, 15 km (9.3 mi) south-west of the New Delhi railway station and 16 km (9.9 mi) from New Delhi city centre.[19] Named after Indira Gandhi, a former Prime Minister of India. It is the busiest airport in the country in terms of passenger traffic and international traffic busiest airport in India since 2009. It is the second busiest airport in the country in terms of cargo traffic after Mumbai.[20] With the commencement of operations at Terminal 3 in 2010, it became India's and South Asia's largest aviation hub, with a current capacity of handling more than 40 million passengers. The planned expansion program will increase the airport's capacity to handle 100 million passengers by 2030.[21] In 2014, the airport handled a total of 39.752 million passengers, registering a 8.4% growth in traffic over the previous year and became the 12th busiest airports in Asia. As of 2015, the airport currently is the 26th busiest airport in the world by passenger traffic.


The Gujarat government is planning to set up India's first civil aviation park in the state. The aviation park will have facilities such as air strips, training school, helipad and a flight simulator. The park will provide a platform for human resources and manufacturing activities related to the industry. It would be a one-stop destination for aerospace training, research and manufacturing.[22]

Social and Environmental Responsibility

Travel by air has significant environmental impacts. Construction of new airports may require land acquisition, and can be mired in controversies, as happened in the case of the Aranmula International Airport.

The world's first airport fully powered by solar energy is at Kochi.

See also


  1. 100 Years of Civil Aviation in India - Milestones<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 Modi's bumbling aviation boom<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "India begins evacuating citizens". The Hindu. March 31, 2015. Retrieved March 31, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Kumar, Hari (2015-04-10). "India Concludes Evacuation of Its Citizens From Yemen". NYTimes.com. Retrieved 2015-04-11.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "India evacuates 4,640 nationals, 960 others from Yemen". www.oneindia.com. 2015-04-10. Retrieved 2015-04-11.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "1000 nationals from 41 countries: India's Yemen evacuation finally ends and the world is floored". Firstpost. 2015-04-10. Retrieved 2015-04-11.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "India appreciates Pakistan's gesture of evacuating its nationals from Yemen". The Times of India. 2015-04-08. Retrieved 2015-04-08.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Flightglobal - World Air Forces 2015 (PDF), Flightglobal.com
  9. Aviation, Make in India<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. India emerging biggest aircraft market<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "In aviation policy draft, India seeks to make air travel affordable", The Tribune, 30 October 2015<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "In aviation policy draft, government seeks to help everyone fly", The Indian Express, 30 October 2015<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "Draft National Civil Aviation Policy", gktoday.in, 1 November 2015<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. "Air connectivity for tier-2 cities soon, says MoS Civil Aviation Mahesh Sharma", India Today, 9 February 2016<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. Pilot's checklist (PDF)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>[dead link]
  16. Home page. Directorate General of Civil Aviation. Retrieved on 9 June 2009. "Aurbindo Marg, Opp. Safdarjung Airport, New Delhi 110 003, INDIA"
  17. "Aviation Ministry moots to replace DGCA with a Super-regulator". India Today. 10 October 2012. Retrieved 7 May 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. "US agency to fund India's aviation safety upgrade", Business Standard, New Delhi, 9 February 2016<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. "eAIP India AD-2.1 VIDP". Aai.aero. Retrieved 5 May 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. "Delhi Airport busier than Mumbai by 40 flights a day". Indianexpress.com. 16 August 2009. Retrieved 5 May 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. Grammaticas, Damian (9 May 2007). "Sky's the limit for India flight boom". BBC News. Retrieved 5 May 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. "Gujarat to set up India's first civil aviation park", International Business Times, 8 February 2016<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

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