Draft Air Sports Policy: It's Time To Soar In The Skies
Air sports yield significant revenue and have multiplier benefits in terms of growth of travel, tourism, infrastructure and local employment, especially in hilly areas of the country.
Creation of air sports hubs across the country will also bring in air sports professionals and tourists from across the world.
The story so far: The Ministry of Civil Aviation has released the draft National Air Sports Policy (NASP) on 1 January, 2022. It is available in the public domain for feedback and suggestions up to 31 January, 2022.
What Is Air Sports?
Many people think of commercial or general aviation aircraft when they think of flying, but aviation consists of much more than just airplanes. The vast blue sky is an arena to host of sporting activities.
Air sports encompasses various sports activities involving the medium of air. These include sports like air-racing, aeromodelling, hang gliding, paragliding and skydiving etc.
Air sports are particularly popular in Europe followed by North America and Australia. In India, some popular air sports attractions include Bir-Billing in Himachal Pradesh, Gangtok in Sikkim, Hadapsar in Maharashtra and Vagamon in Kerala.
Potential Of Sports In India
India has a large geographical expanse, diverse topography and fair weather conditions. It has a large population, especially the youth. It has a growing culture for adventure sports and aviation.
Air sports yield significant revenue and have multiplier benefits in terms of growth of travel, tourism, infrastructure and local employment, especially in hilly areas of the country. Creation of air sports hubs across the country will also bring in air sports professionals and tourists from across the world.
India has also the opportunity to host migratory air sports professionals from Europe as the air sports aficionados migrate to the milder climate of the southern hemisphere during peak winters.
The Government of India plans to promote the country’s air sports sector, by way of making it safe, affordable, accessible, enjoyable and sustainable. To facilitate the same, the government plans to bring out a National Air Sports Policy (NASP).
Who Regulates Air Sports?
The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), headquartered in Lausanne, Switzerland, is the world governing body for air sports. Founded on 14 October 1905, it sets standards, organizes events and maintains global records for various aero sports activities.
FAI is now an organisation of more than 100 member countries each represented by their principal National Airsports Controls. The Aero Club of India is the national sports federation for air sports in India and an active member of FAI since 1950.
Key Features Of The Draft NASP 2022
NASP 2022 covers sports like aerobatics, aeromodelling, amateur-built and experimental aircraft, ballooning, drones, gliding, hang gliding and paragliding, microlighting and paramotoring, skydiving and vintage aircraft.
The vision is to make India one of the top air sports nations by 2030.
The draft policy proposes a two-tier governance structure for air sports in the country which includes an apex governing body called the Air Sports Federation of India (ASFI) and association for each air sports e.g. Paragliding Association of India or Skydiving Association of India etc.
The ASFI is proposed to be set up as an autonomous body under the Ministry of Civil Aviation and will represent India at FAI and other global platforms related to air sports. It will provide governance over various aspects of air sports, including regulation, certification, competitions, awards and penalties, etc.
The air sports associations will handle day-to-day activities and shall be accountable to ASFI with respect to the regulatory oversight and for providing safe, affordable, accessible, enjoyable and sustainable conduct of their respective air sport.
Air sports by their very nature involve a higher level of risk than flying a regular aircraft. The draft policy places strong focus on ensuring international best practices in safety. Each air sports association will lay down the safety standards for equipment, infrastructure, personnel and training, as per global best practices and specify the disciplinary actions to be taken in case of non-compliance.
Inability to enforce safety standards may lead to penal action by the ASFI against such association including financial penalties, suspension or dismissal.
All persons and entities providing air sports services shall be required to register as members of the respective air sports associations. Key equipment used for air sports will also have to be registered with the respective association.
Schools and colleges will be encouraged to include air sports in their curriculum and students will have the opportunity to participate in FAI’s international competitions.
The draft policy also aims to encourage domestic design, development and manufacturing of air sports equipment in line with the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan by way of a Production-Linked Incentive (PLI) Scheme.
To make air sports affordable to the common public, the government may consider waiving import duty on air sports equipment for a certain period as well as request the GST Council to consider rationalising the GST rate on air sports equipment to 5 per cent or less.
Given the natural advantages of India, air sports have the ability to be financially sustainable on its own. The policy focuses on securing long-term funding for development of air sports from corporate investors, sponsors, membership fees, events and media rights.
The Government of India may also provide financial support to ASFI on demand for promotion of air sports, especially in the initial years.
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