This article has been divided into the following 11 parts:

  1. Background
  2. Requirements
  3. Categories of Aerodrome Licensing
  4. Qualifications of licensee (India as an example)
  5. Procedure for grant of license
  6. Conditions governing the grant of license
  7. Period of validity of license
  8. Preparation of Aerodrome Manual
  9. Fee Charges
  10. Phases of aerodrome commissioning and Licensing
  11. Other Processes

1. Background

Before starting off with the vast subject of Aerodrome licensing it is important to understand a few concepts. They are as follows:

1.1 Public aerodromes: Every aerodrome which is licensed for public use or which is open to public use by aircraft registered in India upon payment of charges and upon fulfillment of conditions, is open to use by aircraft possessing the nationality of a contracting State.

A private, or executive airport is privately-owned location that maintains an airfield, air strip, or runway for private use by its owner or owners and isn’t open for use by the public.

Article 15 of the ICAO Convention requires that all aerodromes open to public use, under the jurisdiction of the Contracting State(country), provide uniform conditions for aircraft of all other Contracting States.

So, why is licensing of an aerodrome required at all ? Let us understand.

1.2 Benefits of Certification of an Aerodrome:

  1. Certification enables member State i.e. the country to discharge safety responsibilities in aerodrome regulations and provides evidence of action taken.
  2. Certification is reviewed in the ICAO Universal Safety Oversight Audit Program (USOAP) thus enhancement of safety standards is ensured.
  3. ICAO Annex 14 Volume I defines standards that require:

Contracting States to certify aerodromes used for international operations in accordance with the specifications contained in all relevant ICAO specifications through an appropriate regulatory framework

Basically, Licensing allows standardization of aerodrome facilities to ensure safe and smooth aircraft operations and also brings in accountability.

2. Requirements

In accordance with the above, ICAO Annex 14 Volume I:

A certified aerodrome is to implement a “safety management system” acceptable to the State i.e. country.

ICAO in Document 9774, Manual on Certification of Aerodrome suggests certification be addressed by adopting a dual approach.

  • Firstly, the regulator is to establish a regulatory framework within which the certification process can be established and the appropriate procedures may be developed and implemented.  The regulatory framework establishes the criteria for certification, such as regulations, standards, and organizational arrangements that are established by the regulator.
  • Secondly the aerodrome operator is to produce an aerodrome manual.  This is the document that provides the source information about aerodrome data, published for use by other aviation industry individuals and organizations.  The manual contains full information about the aerodrome site, its facilities, equipment, the services provided by the aerodrome operator, the equipment used, operating procedures and the organization and management of the corporate entity. 

NOTE 1 : – Each contracting State undertakes to collaborate in securing the highest practicable degree of uniformity in regulations, standards, procedures, and organization in relation to aircraft, personnel, airways and auxiliary services in all matters in which such uniformity facilitates and improves air navigation.

NOTE 2 :- Any State which finds it impractical to comply in all respects with any such international standard or procedure are to give immediate notification to ICAO of the differences between its own practice and that established by the international standard.

NOTE 3 :- No aerodrome other than a defense aerodrome is to be used as a regular place of landing and departure by a scheduled air transport service or for a series of landings and departures by any aircraft carrying passengers or cargo for hire or reward unless:

(a) it has been licensed for the purpose, and save in accordance with the conditions prescribed in such license; or

(b) it has been approved by the Director General, subject to such conditions as he/she may deem fit to impose, for the purpose of operation of flights in the event of national or international crisis, natural calamities, emergencies or otherwise requiring such flights to carry material goods for relief purposes, or for giving joyrides for hire or reward:

NOTE 4 :- Provided that any person already permitted and operating scheduled air transport services to an aerodrome before the commencement of the Aircraft (4th Amendment) Rules, 2004 may continue operation of such services till the aerodrome operator obtains the license from the Director General by the date to be notified by the Central Government.

Now, is the right time to understand the categories of licenses provided to an aerodrome operator.

3. Categories of Aerodrome Licensing

An aerodrome may be licensed by the Central Government in one of the following categories, namely: –

(a) for public use;

(b) for private use, that this is to say, for use by the licensee and by individuals specifically authorized by the licensee.

An aerodrome may be licensed for all types of aircraft or for certain specified types or classes of aircraft and the license specifying the conditions on which the aerodrome may be used.

So, what are the qualifications that an individual or a company must possess before applying for a license? Let us understand.

4. Qualifications of licensee (India as an example)

A license for an aerodrome is not granted to any person other than:

(a) a citizen of India; or

(b) a Company or a body corporate, provided that:

        (i) it is registered and having its principal place of business in India;

        (ii) it meets the equity holding criteria specified by the Central Government from time to time;

(c) the Central Government or a State Government or any company or any corporation owned or controlled by either of the said Governments; or

(d) a society registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860 (21 of 1860).

Now, let us understand the procedure for the grant of aerodrome license.

5. Procedure for grant of license

  • An application for the grant of license for an aerodrome is to be made to the Director General along with the Aerodrome Manual.
  • The application must be in such form and contain such particulars as may be specified by the Director General.
  • The Director General may, for disposal of the application, require the applicant to furnish any additional information which he considers necessary.
  • The Director General may also require the applicant to produce evidence in support of any information furnished in the application.

So, what are the conditions to be fulfilled for the grant of aerodrome license? Let us have a look:

6. Conditions governing the grant of license

(1) An aerodrome license may be granted or renewed subject to such conditions as the Director General considers necessary to ensure compliance with the Convention and the safety of aircraft operations.

(2) While a license is in force, no alterations to the landing area or the buildings or the other structures on the aerodrome which may affect the safety of aircraft may be under taken without the previous approval of the DG & application for such is to be addressed to the DG and has to be accompanied by full particulars with plan of any such alterations including alterations to surrounding obstructions which may affect the safety of aircraft.

(3) The necessary approval may be granted or withheld and if granted may be granted subject to such conditions (including conditions involving a revision of original conditions of license) as DG may think fit.

(4) If any alteration of the nature is undertaken without the previous approval of DG, the license may be cancelled.

(5) The licensee must maintain the aerodrome in a fit state for use by aircraft and adequately marked to the satisfaction of the Director General during the whole period of the currency of the license and must, if the aerodrome becomes unserviceable, immediately notify the Director-General.

7. Period of validity of license

An aerodrome license may be granted for any period not exceeding twenty-four months, and on each occasion of renewal, may be renewed for any period not exceeding twenty-four months.

8. Preparation of Aerodrome Manual

Every owner or operator responsible for operation of a civil aerodrome is to prepare an Aerodrome Manual in respect of their aerodrome and  submit it to DGCA.

An Aerodrome Manual must:

  • be typewritten or printed.
  • be signed by the person in-charge for day-to-day operation of aerodrome.
  • be in a form that is easy to revise.
  • have the statement of acceptance/ approval of DGCA.

It is essential that the Aerodrome Manual has the following parts: –

  1. Introduction
  2. Part I – General
  3. Part II – Particulars of the aerodrome site.
  4. Part III – Particulars of the aerodrome required to be reported to Aeronautical Information Service (AIS).
  5. Part IV – Particulars of the aerodrome operating procedures and safety measures.
  6. Part V – Aerodrome administration and safety management system.

9. Fee Charges

The fee chargeable for the grant of a license for an aerodrome are:

  • When the license is granted for private use: – Rs.1,00,000/-
  • When the license is granted for public use:
  • Rs.5,00,000/- up to runway length of 5,000 feet;
  • plus Rs.2,00,000/- for every 1,000 feet or part thereof.
  • The fee chargeable for renewal of license of an aerodrome is fifty per cent of the fee for license.
  • The fee is payable by Bank Draft drawn in favor of Pay and Accounts Office, Director General of Civil Aviation, Ministry of Civil Aviation, New Delhi

10. Phases of aerodrome commissioning and Licensing

10.1 Types of Aerodrome License

  • For Public Use – the aerodrome, which, when available for operation of aircraft, is so available to all persons on equal terms and conditions.
  • For Private Use – for use by the licensee and by individuals specifically authorized by the licensee.

10.1.1 Public Use Category. Ministry of Civil Aviation grant Site clearance and ‘In Principle’ approval for all proposals pertaining to the aerodromes under Public Use category as per the Greenfield Airport Policy.

10.1.2 Private Use Category. Site clearance as well as ‘In Principle’ approval is granted by DGCA as per technical assessment of the site and based on usage of airport indicated by the applicant. The ‘In Principle’ approval granted by DGCA indicates that the proposed airport is essentially meant for non-commercial operations by the licensee and by individuals specifically authorized by the licensee only.

  • Similarly, if an applicant wishes to convert the airport from ‘Public Use’ category, which was duly approved by Steering Committee, to ‘Private Use’ later, the case may be referred to Steering Committee for review.
  • In case the applicant wishes to convert the airport from ‘Private Use’ category to ‘Public Use’ later, Steering Committee process and Government approvals as per the prevailing policy maybe required.
  • Application for cargo airports and heliports need not be submitted for approval of the Ministry of Civil Aviation and these cases may be considered and decided at the level of DGCA, subject to applicable regulations.

10.2 Site clearance

10.2.1 Greenfield airport for Public Use: Prior to commencing the construction, the potential owner/developer of the Greenfield aerodrome for public use has to make applications to the Steering Committee at Ministry of Civil Aviation. The request for site approval and issuance of in-principal approval in respect of these aerodromes is dealt by Steering Committee in accordance with Greenfield Airport Policy of GOI.

10.2.2 Airport for Private Use (including cargo airport): The applicant for private use aerodrome and cargo aerodrome may obtain and forward, along with the application form, attested copies of the clearances/permissions to the DGCA from the following:

 i. Ministry of Defense

 ii. Ministry of Home Affairs (applied through MoCA)

 iii. Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India

 iv. Owner of the land

v. Local authority such as municipal corporation/committee or urban land development board/authority of the State or its Country and Town Planning Department.

While granting clearances /permission, it is ensured that the proposed aerodrome is not causing operational constraints to the defense activities and security hazard.

The local authorities should also indicate that a suitable mechanism has been evolved or exists to regulate the construction around the proposed aerodrome, so that the obstacle limitation surfaces as defined in Statutory Order issued in this regard by the Central Government, from time to time, can be continuously maintained.

10.3 Construction of Aerodrome

After ‘in principle’ clearance is given by the Steering Committee or DGCA, as the case may be, for the airport site, the applicant is to submit his intention and plan including a project report and commence construction work. The Steering Committee will then monitor the progress of Greenfield airport proposals under development for public use where “in principle ‘approvals are granted. Inspection will be done after the applicant gives the completion report and makes a request for licensing of the aerodrome.

10.4 Application for Grant of License

  1. The application for an aerodrome license must be accompanied with an Aerodrome Manual, including establishment of an effective Safety Management System.
  2. Applications should be submitted with sufficient time to allow for detailed consideration and inspection of the aerodrome before the issue of a license. The minimum period required for processing may be about three months from the date a complete application along with aerodrome manual is received by the DGCA.
  3. The applicant must submit CAR compliance check list in respect of the requirements contained in CAR issued on the subject of Aerodrome Design and Operations, Aeronautical Telecommunication, Aeronautical information Services and other relevant ICAO documents will also be kept in view while preparing the compliance statement.
  4. An aerodrome license may be valid for a period of two years as prescribed in the Aircraft Rules, 1937 unless it is surrendered by the license holder or is suspended or cancelled by the Director General for non-adherence to the relevant Rules and requirements or for any other reason. The license remains valid subject to adherence of all applicable rules or regulations and conditions/ limitations, if any, attached to the license.
  5. During the currency of license, the DGCA may depute his representatives at any time for audit / inspection of the aerodrome.

10.5 Inspection

  • Any person, authorized by the Director-General by general or special order in writing in this behalf, may, at all reasonable times, enter any place to which access is necessary and to inspect and carry out tests on the aerodrome facilities, services and equipment, inspect aerodrome operator’s documents and records, and verify the aerodrome operator’s safety management system before the license is granted or renewed and subsequently, at any other time, for the purpose of ensuring safety and order at the aerodrome.
  • The aerodrome operator allows the person so authorized, access to any part of the aerodrome or any aerodrome facility, including equipment, records, documents and operator’s personnel and also co-operates in conducting the activities.

    

11. Other Processes

11.1 Renewal of License

  • The license holder has to submit the application for the renewal of license along with the prescribed fee, at least two months prior to the date of expiry for public use aerodromes and one month in case of private use category aerodromes. The original aerodrome license should be enclosed for renewal.
  • A copy each of the last self-inspection report and the last calibration report on Navigation and Landing aids and latest runway friction assessment report must also be submitted with the application. The self-inspection should have been completed within 30 days preceding the renewal application.
  • At the time of grant of aerodrome license, DGCA may impose certain conditions, which are required to be addressed by the license holder in a time bound manner as per the action plan submitted to DGCA.
  • At the time of licensing or during the currency of aerodrome license, exemptions are granted in temporary and permanent categories for each non-compliance and deviations from the requirements. At the time of making application for renewal of license, the aerodrome operator has to submit the details of progress made during the currency of license regarding compliance of such requirements and adequacy of mitigation measures employed to ensure safety and regularity of flight operations.

11.2 Demand for the Change in category of aerodrome license

Application for the purpose should be submitted three months prior to the intended conversion of the license category. The original aerodrome license should be submitted along with the application.

11.3 Amendment to Aerodrome License

  • An Aerodrome license may be amended in response to a request by the Aerodrome Operator or as a consequence of enforcement action by DGCA. The application for amendment to the aerodrome license should be submitted along with original aerodrome license.
  • An aerodrome operator may request amendment to an aerodrome license for a number of reasons like a change of aerodrome name, change of coordinates of aerodrome reference point, to remove or amend a condition, limitation or special procedure and change in flight rules between IFR and VFR.
  • The application for amendment to the aerodrome license should be supported by relevant documents including detailed account of the proposed amendment including
  • The reasons for the amendment; the details of changes must be included in the AIP, aerodrome manual and aerodrome emergency plan.

11.4 Change of Aerodrome License Holder

An aerodrome license is granted to a named ‘legal person’ (an individual or a company or any other legally constituted authority or body) who satisfies the DGCA that the criteria for the license issue have been met. Once a license is granted the licensee is to ensure that the aerodrome continues to meet the requirements.      

NOTE: – The aerodrome license is not transferable.

If the owner or the operator of licensed aerodrome is to be changed:

  • a fresh application along with requisite fee for issue of new license is to be submitted to DGCA by the prospective licensee; and
  • the prospective licensee must fulfill all requirements as required for an issue of new license.

A change in the name only of the current license holder does not constitute a change of identity of the licensee, the licensee should apply for the variation of the license to reflect the name change and provide a copy of the relevant ‘certificate of incorporation on change of name’

Minimum notification of three months is required for change in the license holder.

During the change the outgoing licensee is responsible for the operation of the aerodrome until the grant of aerodrome license to the new applicant.

11.5 Discontinuation/Surrender of License

The license holder must give a written notice to DGCA not less than 60 days from the date, on which the license is to be discontinued / surrendered, in order that suitable promulgation action can be taken. The original aerodrome license should be surrendered along with.

On approval of the surrender of the license, the aerodrome operator has to:

(a) Provide such information to AAI for promulgation through Aeronautical Information Service.

(b) Ensure that appropriate measures have been taken to avoid unintended use of the aerodrome by aircraft unless this office has approved the use of the aerodrome by other purposes.

11.6 Issue of Duplicate License due to Loss or Any Other Reason

The airport operator is responsible for proper upkeep and safe custody of aerodrome license at a secure place so that there is no risk of loss or defacing of license.

However, despite all precautions, if the license is lost or defaced, the aerodrome operator has to apply in writing for a duplicate copy of the aerodrome license to DGCA. The defaced license must also be submitted along with.

In case the lost license is found after issue of duplicate license, the same must be submitted to the office of DGCA at the earliest.

11.7 Exemption Procedures for Non-compliance at Aerodromes

DGCA, India has procedures for accepting cases for non-compliance in respect of an aerodrome being issued with a license in the following situations:

There may be some circumstances where compliance of requirement has not been followed at an existing aerodrome:

  • because of physical constraints; and
  • where the facility had been provided earlier as per old regulations and continued to be in operation.

Examples of Non-compliances at Aerodromes

  • Inadequate runway end safety areas;
  • Inadequate runway – taxiway separation distances;
  • Non-standard approach and runway lights;
  • Inadequate rescue and fire-fighting vehicles, equipment and personnel.
  • Rescue and fire-fighting services;
  • Low visibility procedures;

11.7.1 Categories of Exemptions

  • Temporary Exemptions: Where the non-compliance is expected to be removed and interoperability is the predominant aspect of the requirement, such as mandatory signs, availability of runway strip etc.
  • Permanent Exemptions: Where non-compliance is not reasonably possible to be removed and interoperability is not the predominant aspect of the requirement, such as the infringement of high ground into an obstacle limitation surface etc.

11.7.2 Procedure for Seeking Exemptions

The aerodrome licensee has to submit separate application for each non-compliance in the prescribed Performa for seeking exemption.

The application for exemption has to be supported with:

  • the reasons for noncompliance
  • safety assessment reports
  • means of mitigation
  • indication as to when compliance can be expected

The applicant should provide adequate information in the prescribed Performa for consideration for granting exemption with supporting documents. Failure to provide adequate information may delay processing / refusal of the application.

The DGCA after examining the applications for exemptions may exempt, in writing, an aerodrome operator from complying with specific provisions of the CAR and may impose conditions for such exemptions to ensure the safety and regularity of aircraft operation.

On approval of the exemption, it must be included in the aerodrome manual and in AIP.

On removal of the exemption the license holder must notify the same to the DGCA and after approval of DGCA, the same has to be deleted from Aerodrome manual and AIP.

The exemption granted must be reviewed during renewal of the license.

Thus we now have understood the elaborate process involved in the process of aerodrome licensing. Hope you enjoyed reading the article. Let us know your insights and help us grow.

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