New Delhi, Dec 29: SpiceJet's near-shutdown and the downgrade of India's safety ranking marred the civil aviation sector in 2014, which also saw a new airline taking to the sky and another one readying itself to do so early next year. National carrier Air India became part of the 27-member global airlines grouping Star Alliance, as budget airline AirAsia India launched operations and Tata-SIA joint venture carrier Vistara received the flying permit and announced its intentions to start operations from January 9.
Jet Airways also completed 24 per cent stake sale to Abu Dhabi carrier Etihad for Rs 2,058 crore. A change of government saw incumbents Ashok Gajapathi Raju and Mahesh Sharma in the cockpit of the Civil Aviation Ministry, which came out with a long-awaited draft policy for the entire sector emphasising on air connectivity to remote places.
It is currently under discussion among stakeholders. After suffering a full closure for almost a day, SpiceJet averted a shutdown as it attracted new investment from one of its founders, Ajay Singh, who along with US-based JP Morgan Chase are expected to pump in USD 200 million to pick up stake from current promoter Kalanithi Maran and his Sun Group.
While there was no major mishap during the year, a SpiceJet flight, carrying 140 passengers, had a close shave when a buffalo came on the runway at Surat airport and hit it, forcing the pilot to abort take-off. This led aviation regulator DGCA to take preventive measures at 18 identified airports to prevent such recurrence.
The year began on a negative note as US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) downgraded India's aviation safety ranking from top category-I to category-II, bringing it below Pakistan and on par with countries like Ghana, Barbados and Bangladesh on January 31. The ranking is likely to remain grounded till March next year as the FAA carried out its audit this month and found that several deficiencies are yet to be rectified. The change in political leadership brought much hope for the aviation sector, which was for long seeking attention of decision-makers to address issues like infrastructure, high taxes and costs.