The National Air Sports Policy 2022, and why it is needed
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The National Air Sports Policy 2022, and why it is needed

The Ministry of Civil Aviation has launched an aero-sports policy to turn India into a one of the top destination for air sports by 2030. In a first, the policy sets up an oversight body will be set up for regulation, certification, accidents and penalties.

The Ministry of Civil Aviation has launched an aero-sports policy to turn India into a top destination for air sports by 2030. In a first, the policy sets up an oversight bodyfor regulation, certification, accidents and penalties.

The story so far: On June 7, Union Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia unveiled a national sports policy to promote sports like aerobatics, hot-air ballooning, and paragliding, with the aim of making India one of the top aerosports nations by 2030.

As part of the policy, a four-tier structure will be established to govern aero sports, with the Air Sports Federation of India (ASFI) as the apex body. The ASFI will be an autonomous body under the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA).

Speaking at the launch of the National Air Sports Policy 2022 (NASP 2022), Mr. Scindia said the air sports ecosystem in India holds the potential to generate over 1 lakh direct jobs and generate annual revenue of Rs 10,000 crore. “From a small market size of around 5,000 odd air sports practitioners creating around Rs 80-100 crore of annual revenue in India, I feel we can target over Rs 8,000-10,000 crore annual revenue and generate over 1,00,000 direct jobs. The economic multiplier benefits in terms of travel, tourism, support services and local infrastructure development will be over three times,” the minister remarked.

A tourist parasailing at Kovalam in Thiruvananthapuram.

A tourist parasailing at Kovalam in Thiruvananthapuram.
| Photo Credit: –

What are air sports and which will be included? 

The policy document defines air sports as sports activities involving the medium of air. Examples include air-racing, aerobatics, hang gliding, paragliding and skydiving. The following will be covered by the National Air Sports Policy 2022:

  1. Aerobatics 
  2. Aero modelling and model rocketry
  3. Amateur-built and experimental aircraft
  4. Ballooning
  5. Drones
  6. Gliding and powered gliding
  7. Hang gliding and powered hang gliding
  8. Parachuting, which will include skydiving, BASE jumping and wing suits
  9. Paragliding and para motoring, including powered parachute trikes
  10. Powered aircraft, including ultra-light, microlight and light-sports aircraft
  11. Rotorcraft that includes autogyro

The list may be extended as and when required, according to the Ministry.

The idea behind NASP 2022

Though adventurists have been undertaking aerial sports for years across the country, there has been no formal framework in place to ensure their safety considering the higher levels of risk. Via the aero sports policy, the Centre states its intention to promote the sector by providing a “safe, affordable, accessible, enjoyable and sustainable air sports ecosystem”.

Besides economic benefits, the government is looking at tapping into the sector to boost tourism, travel, infrastructure and employment, especially in hilly areas.

The policy has also been framed to engage “migratory” air sports professionals who move away from prominent air sports locations during the winter season. “The ASFI and the air sports associations will work towards developing a hassle-free process to enable their movement to India. This will enable Indian air sports enthusiasts to learn from the experience of the visiting professionals, get exposed to global best practices and create opportunities to host global competitions in India,” reads the policy. 

Air sports are managed by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) around the world. Headquartered in Switzerland, the FAI is recognised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

What are the goals of the policy?

In brief, to make India a global hub of air sports by 2030. To achieve this goal, the Centre has said it will focus on promoting a culture of air sports in the country while adopting international best practices of safety. In this direction, it has announced a four-tier governance structure to oversee aerial sports. The policy also says that development and manufacturing of sports equipment will be done in keeping with the Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan. The government is also contemplating an incentive scheme to promote the manufacturing of air sports equipment in India.

The newly established policy framework for aero sports

Four-tier governance structure: The 11 identified air sports will come under a four-tier governance structure, with the Air Sports Federation of India (ASFI) as the apex body. It will oversee aspects like regulation, certification, accidents and penalties. National associations for individual air sports will be in the second tier, regional units and their state affiliates will be in the third tier and district-level air sports associations will govern the sport at the local level. 

ASFI: The apex body will govern aspects of regulation, certification, competitions, awards and penalties. It will also be responsible for organising promotional events, and competitions with the help of national air sports associations. The ASFI will have the Ministry of Civil Aviation Secretary as its head while the Ministry Joint Secretary will be appointed as the Member Secretary. Its governing council will have representatives from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), Airports Authority of India (AAI), two representatives each from the national air sports association and the Aero Club of India, and three aero sports experts nominated by the Chairperson. The Council will meet once every three months. A secretariat will be set up in the ASFI which will bring together professionals with knowledge and experience in air sports, administration, finance, marketing and legislation. ASFI will publish its draft guidelines within six months.

National air sports associations: Regulatory issues related to safety, training, licensing and airworthiness will be handled by these associations. They will coordinate with Air Traffic Control (ATC) to ensure safe operations alongside manned and unmanned flights. These national air sports associations will organise competitions at the national level and collaborate with international organisations. They will maintain all flight records and other data from these competitions. Rules for insurance and compensation in case of accidents will also be framed by them.

Each national air sports association will have an elected President, Secretary and Treasurer. The Executive Council will comprise the President and Secretary of State-level air sports associations, representatives of Central departments, armed forces and Central Armed Police Forces etc, and at least two veterans of the respective air sport. The public will be charged a fee to use selected facilities of the armed forces, CAPF and state police forces without “compromising on quality, safety, national security and operational requirements of the forces”, the report says.

Source: Ministry of Civil Aviation

Source: Ministry of Civil Aviation

48-hour deadline to report accidents

Air sports can be exhilarating, but they involve great risk. To ensure safety, air sports associations will lay down the safety standards for equipment, infrastructure, personnel and training as per global best practices for the respective sport. The guidelines will also include details on disciplinary action that will be taken in case of non-compliance.

Under the policy, an accident related to air sports has to be reported to the concerned air sports association in writing along with a copy to the ASFI within 48 hours. The policy states that failure to do so may lead to penal action.

If the ASFI finds that an air sports association is not enforcing adequate safety standards, it has the right to take punitive action including suspension.

Registration for air sports

All persons and organisations engaged in air sports or providing related services have to compulsorily register as members of air sports associations. Key equipment will also have to be registered with the air sports association. In case of decommissioning or damaged equipment, air sports associations must ensure safe and hazard-free disposal by its members. Associations will have to be informed if air sports equipment is transferred.

To promote air sports, the Centre is likely to advocate for 5 per cent or less of GST (Goods and Services Tax) on equipment. Presently, the GST on air sports equipment is 18 to 28 per cent. 

Who will authorise sports flights?

Since air sports activities will share space with the manned and unmanned aircraft already in operation, theywill be conducted in coordination with the ATC. Local ATCs can also be contacted to conduct air sports in restricted and controlled airspaces. Every national air sports association will rely on airspace data published by the aeronautical information publication as well as notice to airmen (NOTAM).

For any air sports activity, all necessary clearances need to be obtained from authorities at least 24 hours in advance. In case a sports activity is common in an air space, ATC can ask the operator to develop a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP).

In areas where air sports are frequently conducted, air sports associations have to apply to the MoCA for the establishment of ‘Segregated Airspaces’. Approval for such airspaces will be given after national security and safety aspects are reviewed. If approved, details will be published in the Aeronautical Information Publication (AIP)-India to facilitate hassle-free air sports in segregated airspaces.

AIP is an aviation document published by the Airports Authority of India (AAI ) which has aeronautical information and other details essential for air navigation. “We are thinking of creating segregated airspace for air sports in certain corridors much like what we have done with drones. That will help in proliferating these sports,” Mr. Scindia said. 

In case of violation of air sports rules

Violation of the rules laid out by the policy will attract penalties up to a maximum of Rs. 50,000. This is applicable to both individuals and organisations, and may be imposed by the AFSI or the concerned air sports association.