DGCA’s Revised Norms to Allow Scheduled Airlines Fly Single-Engine Planes at Night

Civil Aviation

New Delhi: In a move to boost the civil aviation sector, the regulator, Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has decided to standardise and enhance the small aircraft ecosystem by revising , the norms for single-engine aircraft operations by commuter airlines and charter flights. Earlier, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) did not allow single-engine aircraft to operate at night, leading to higher costs for operators.

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With the updated rules, scheduled operators can now conduct night operations with single-engine planes which will help increase aircraft utilisation for small airlines.

“The operator shall have a phase- wise approach towards introducing night operations. They should first be cleared for day operations. After satisfactory compliance of DGCA requirements and effective risk mitigation, their flight scheduling may be permitted to impinge upon night-in arrivals,” according to the amended civil aviation regulations by the DGCA.

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These aircraft will be approved for night operations on specific routes if they demonstrate effective compliance and risk mitigation, but it is important to ensure that flight commencement or termination does not fall within the circadian low window, according to the DGCA.

Circadian low window is a specific time period during the 24-hour circadian rhythm, or biological clock, when an individual’s physiological and mental alertness is at its lowest. The window is typically between 02:00 and 06:00 hours for crew members away from their home base or domicile for more than 48 hours.

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This order addresses a longstanding demand from small aircraft operators who found uniform rules for all aircraft types financially unsustainable.

“Earlier, a scheduled airline with single-engine aircraft was not permitted to operate at night while a single-engine charter aircraft was permitted to operate at night. It is a welcome move to standardise norms for the segment,” said Arun Kumar Singh, former CEO and accountable manager of IndiaOne Air, that started operations in 2020 and is the only scheduled airline with single-engine aircraft.

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“There is no magic wand which will make small airlines profitable. A lot of things have to be done. This is one of the steps. It will encourage small operators to come up with single-engine aircraft and increase aircraft utilisation by two-three hours, lowering fixed costs of operation and decrease average cost of leasing an aircraft,” Singh added.

The DGCA also consolidated norms for flight crew training and qualification requirements, aligning it for scheduled commuter airlines and charter operators. According to the new norms, pilot-in-command requires 1200 hours of flying experience, down from the earlier 1,500 hours needed for scheduled commuter airlines. Similarly, it also applies to qualifications for charter operators, where the pilot-in-command should have experience of 1,200 hours, up from the previous 700 hours.

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However, executives from the business jets association submitted a plea demanding a rollback of the increase in requirements for flying experience for a pilot-in-command for charter flights citing an “unrealistic” requirement.

“They have done some overlapping between non-scheduled and commuter airlines, which needs clarification. We have flagged it,” R.K. Bali, managing director, Business Aircraft Operators Association, said.

In 2018, regulations for scheduled single-engine commuter operators were introduced along with the Centre’s regional connectivity scheme, Ude Desh ka Aam Naagrik – UDAN.