The government is going ahead with privatisation and more airports will be privatised soon, a senior Civil Aviation Ministry official said on Tuesday.

Speaking at the ‘Smart Safe Secure Skies,’ event organised by FICCI jointly with Thales, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation, Usha Padhee said the Indian civil aviation sector is growing at a rapid pace and is attracting a lot of investment, particularly from the private sector.

“Government is, for the first time, talking about disinvestment of Air India and Pawan Hans Ltd. We have already privatised some airports and more airports are in line. Three have been awarded, few more are in line. It is a continuous trend,” she said.

With just seven per cent penetration in a country of 1.2 billion, Padhee added that about 300 million to 400 million middle class in India are still waiting to fly. “Just one ticket per passenger in a year will take India ahead of the UK, the world’s third-largest civil aviation market,” she added.

“Be confident that the next two decades are going to be a growth story,” Padhee said, adding that the sector, which faces competing demands from its different stakeholders, needs the ecosystem to work as one integrated model.

Maheshwar Dayal, Deputy Director General, Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS), said the pressures of growth, commercial interests of the industry and pressures of security are always at loggerheads and striking a balance has been a difficult task for BCAS.

“BCAS is about to release anti-drone specifications. The technical specifications of all the gadgets and systems at Indian airports are issued by BCAS. So, for anti-drone, we are about to release the specifications in less than a week’s time,” he said.

Speaking about India’s large and growing economy, chairman, FICCI Civil Aviation Committee and president and MD, India and South Asia, Airbus, Anand Stanley said the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has surpassed the American and European regulators in certain concepts related to safety and other areas that are followed and adopted by other countries.

Alex Cresswell, Executive Vice President, Land & Air Systems, Thales, said the aviation industry has been at the forefront of technological advancements and the sector’s reputation (in terms of safety) is critical for its continued success.

“Since the start of commercial aviation, the sector is at another major juncture where it is entering the drone age. The existing infrastructure will not be adequate as the skies will be getting busier. Also, the regulatory framework of international standards will be needed to police these,” added Cresswell.

Emmanuel de Roquefeuil, VP and Country Director, Thales in India, said, “We know the Modi government has an ambition of making India a USD 5 trillion economy by 2024. A company like Thales is here to help meet those ambitions.”