Aviation in India

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Airports and seaports in India

Aviation in India, broadly divided into military and civil aviation, is the fastest-growing aviation market in the world (IATA data) and Bangalore with 65% national share is the largest aviation manufacturing hub of India.[1] The UDAN scheme is driving the growth of civil aviation connectivity and infrastructure in India.


Tata Sons' Airline Timetable Image, (c. Summer 1935.)

Vaimānika Shāstra is one of the earliest native books on aviation, dated to 1904, with the designs of aircraft, which are deemed unrealistic by the experts.[2] The vimanas (flying palaces or chariots) are described in Hindu texts, Jain texts and Sanskrit epics, such as Pushpaka Vimana of the king Ravana (who took it from Lord Kubera; Lord Rama returned it to Kubera) is the most quoted example of a vimana.[3]

On 18 February 1911, the first commercial civil aviation flight took off from Allahabad for Naini over a distance of 6 miles (9.7 km) when Henri Pequet, a French aviator, carried 6,500 pieces of mail on a Humber biplane from the exhibition to the receiving office at Allahabad which was the world's first official airmail service.[4] On 15 October 1932, J.R.D. Tata flew a consignment of mail from Karachi to Juhu Airport, an airline later became Air India.[5]

Type of aviation[edit]

Military aviation[edit]

A U.S. Army Air Forces maintenance personnel in India removing a damaged Wright R-3350-23 Duplex-Cyclone engine from a Boeing B-29 Superfortress. They took off any undamaged parts and reused them on the replacement engine (c. 1944–1945).

Market size[edit]

In its publication the Military Balance 2010, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) estimated that the Indian Air Force has a strength of 127,000 active personnel. However, various reliable sources provided notably divergent estimates of its strength over the years. Flightglobal (Flight International) estimates there to be around 1,820 aircraft in service with the IAF: 905 combat planes, 595 fighters and 310 attackers.[6] The defense sector, Indian Airforce, and HAL are investing billions of rupees for the development of numerous indigenous fighter aircraft and new technologies in the aviation industry. HAL Tejas, India's newly built indigenous fighter aircraft, is one of the best examples of government initiative's success.


The President of India serves as the ex-officio Commander-in-Chief of the IAF. The Chief of Air Staff, an Air Chief Marshal (ACM), is a four-star commander and commands the Air Force. There is never more than one serving ACM in the IAF at any given time. The rank of Marshal of the Air Force has been conferred once, to Arjan Singh, by the President of India on 26 January 2002, and Singh became the first five-star rank-holding officer of the IAF and served as its ceremonial chief.


The Indian Air Force, Indian Naval Air Arm and Army Aviation Corps are the air arms of the Indian armed forces. The Indian Air Force is the world's 4th largest air force with primary responsibility for securing Indian airspace and to conduct aerial warfare during a conflict. It was officially established on 8 October 1932 as an auxiliary air force of the British Empire, and the prefix Royal was added in 1945 in recognition of its services during World War II. Following the Indian Independence Act 1947, the new states of India and Pakistan became independent from the United Kingdom, the Royal Indian Air Force served the Dominion of India, with the prefix being dropped when India became a republic in 1950. Since independence, the IAF has been involved in four wars with neighbouring Pakistan and one with the People's Republic of China.[7] Other major operations undertaken by the IAF include Operation Vijay, Operation Meghdoot, Operation Cactus, Operation Poomalai and Operation Raahat. Apart from conflicts in the subcontinent, the IAF has been an active participant in United Nations peacekeeping missions.

Civil aviation[edit]

The busiest Indian airports (2015-16).

IndiGo, Air India, SpiceJet and GoAir are the major carriers in order of their market share.[8] These airlines connect more than 80 cities across India and also operate overseas routes after the liberalisation of Indian aviation. Several other foreign airlines connect Indian cities with other major cities across the globe. However, a large section of country's air transport potential remains untapped, even though the Mumbai-Delhi air corridor was ranked 10th by Amadeus in 2012 among the world's busiest routes.[9][10]

Size of the market[edit]

India is the world's third-largest domestic and overall civil aviation market (c. January 2018).[11][12] The number of air passengers grew 16.3% annually from 14 million (14 million in 2000–01) to 135 million (135 million in 2015-16, both domestic and international).[13] It recorded an air traffic of 131 million passengers in 2016, estimated to be 60 million international passengers by 2017. The market is also estimated to have 800 aircraft by 2020.[14] In 2015, Boeing projected India's demand for aircraft to touch 1,740 or 4.3% of global volume, valued at $240 billion, over the next 20 years in India.[15] Data from IATA shows that India registered the highest domestic load factor of 87.8% across the top seven aviation markets by March 2018. Making flying accessible and affordable under the UDAN scheme, there has been a commendable increase of 242% in air passenger traffic on Regional Connectivity Scheme routes, between April 2018 - April 2019, as per estimates from MakeMyTrip.[16]

Management and regulation[edit]

Ministry of Civil Aviation is responsible for civilian aviation and Ministry of Defence is responsible for the Indian Air Force. Under the auspices of the Ministry of Civil Aviation, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) is the regulatory body responsible for safety oversight of all civil aviation in India.[17] National Civil Aviation Policy 2016 covers the broad policy areas, such as Regional connectivity, Safety, Air Transport Operations, 5/20 Requirement for International Operations, Bilateral traffic rights, Fiscal Support, Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul, Air-cargo, Aeronautical Make in India.[18] Under the UDAN scheme, the government is planning to develop a sustainable air network in over 400 tier-2 cities across India with an estimated expenditure of 500 million (US$7.0 million).[19][20][21][22][23][24][25]


India was targeting 486 existing airports as potential airport for UDAN-RCS, including 406 Unserved airports,[26] 18 Underserved RCS airports (mostly tier-2 regional cities),[27] and 62 NON-RCS airports participating in RCS, mostly tier-2 major city airports or customs airports in tier-2 cities (Dec 2017).[28] In addition, AAI granted in-principal approval to 19 new airports in December 2017.[29]

In December 2017, total operational civil aviation airports in India increased 34% to 131 airports (106 with scheduled civilian flights including some with dual civilian and army use, 3 newly made operational) after the commencement of UDAN-RCS Phase-I (Dec 2017),[30] from the previous figure of 98 total operational airports in 2016 (including 70 civilian airports and the rest army airports with civilian enclaves).[30]

Among the busiest airports in India, the Indira Gandhi International Airport which serves as the primary civilian aviation hub for the National Capital Region of Delhi,[31] is the busiest airport in the country in terms of passenger traffic and international traffic busiest airport in India since 2009 and the second busiest airport in the country in terms of cargo traffic after Mumbai.[32] With the commencement of operations at Terminal 3 in 2010, it became India's and South Asia's largest aviation hub, with a current capacity of handling more than 40 million passengers, which will go up to 100 million passengers by 2030 with the planned expansion.[33] It was 12th busiest airports in Asia (2014) and 21st busiest airport in the world by passenger traffic (2016).

Several Integrated Aviation-industrial parks, for aerospace training, research, manufacturing, Maintenance, repair, and operations (MRO) and Fixed-base Operations (FBO) integrated international aviation hub and aerospace industrial hub, are in the process of being setup, such as in Hisar[34][35][36] and Gujarat.[37]

There are a total of 22 airlines which are operational in India, including Air India and Pawan Hans PSUs, listed companies (SpiceJet, IndiGo Airlines and Air India Express) and private airlines (such as GoAir, Air Asia, Vistara and IndiGo) (c. 2015). Number of civil aviation aircraft in operation for the scheduled commercial flights jumped 38% to 548 in December 2017 from 395 in 2014 and 50 aircraft are being added every year.[29]

In September 2018, Civil Aviation Minister said that as many as 100 new airports would be built in the next 10 to 15 years for about $60 billion to meet the growing domestic air travel demand.[38][39]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ India crowned world's fastest growing aviation market in 2015 as economy takes off, The Telegraph, 1 January 2016.
  2. ^ Ravana's airport, Economic Times, 4 January 2019.
  3. ^ Dutt, Manatha Nath (translator), Ramayana, Elysium Press, Calcutta, 1892 and New York, 1910.
  4. ^ "100 Years of Civil Aviation in India - Milestones", PIB
  5. ^ [1] Beginning of Aviation in India - Bharat Rakshak Archived 27 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ "Flightglobal - World Air Forces 2015 (PDF), Flightglobal.com" (PDF). d1fmezig7cekam.Cloudfront.net. Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  7. ^ List of wars involving India
  8. ^ "Market Share of Scheduled Domestic Airlines" (PDF). DGCA. Retrieved 5 September 2012.
  9. ^ "Mumbai-Delhi 10th busiest air route". Times of India. 12 May 2012. Retrieved 5 September 2012.
  10. ^ "Mumbai airport's traffic control tower design bags award". Thaindian.com. 21 July 2009. Retrieved 16 August 2010.
  11. ^ In next 6-8 months, we expect to get bids for Air India: Jayant Sinha, Economic Times, 8 January 2018.
  12. ^ "India becomes 3rd largest aviation market in domestic traffic - Times of India". IndiaTimes.com. Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  13. ^ "Indian aviation is flying high". DailyExcelsior.com. 17 March 2017. Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  14. ^ Aviation, Make in India
  15. ^ India emerging biggest aircraft market
  16. ^ "Here's how UDAN is helping India soar". The Economic Times. 16 July 2019.
  17. ^ "DGCA RULES AND REGULATIONS". dgca.nic.in. Retrieved 15 February 2019.
  18. ^ indiainfoline.com. "Govt releases National Civil Aviation Policy; impact of FDI in Aviation sector". IndiaInfoline.com. Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  19. ^ "Air connectivity for tier-2 cities soon, says MoS Civil Aviation Mahesh Sharma", India Today, 9 February 2016[permanent dead link]
  20. ^ "GoI AAI's RCS UDAN document (final version), October 2016" (PDF). AAI.aero. Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 June 2017. Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  21. ^ "Ude Desh Ka Aam Naagrik : Civil Aviation Ministry's Regional Connectivity Scheme "UDAN" Launched Today". Press Information Bureau. Government of India. 21 October 2016.
  22. ^ Shukla, Tarun (6 March 2017). "Govt clears Rs 45 billion for 50 regional airports under Udan scheme". LiveMint.com. Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  23. ^ "UDAN: Govt links airlines' performance to award of more routes.", Economic Times, 14 November 2017.
  24. ^ "Udan scheme round-II: Government receives 141 proposals for air routes.", Zee Business, 14 November 2017.
  25. ^ Regional Connectivity Scheme – UDAN (PDF) (Report). Ministry of Civil Aviation – Government of India. October 2016. Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 April 2017. Retrieved 31 March 2017.
  26. ^ Participating unserved UDAN-RCS airports Archived 1 December 2017 at the Wayback Machine, Airport Authority of India, Nov 2016.
  27. ^ Underserved participating airports at the beginning of UDAN-RCS Archived 1 December 2017 at the Wayback Machine, Airport Authority of India, Nov 2016.
  28. ^ Non-RCS airports including well served airports Archived 1 December 2017 at the Wayback Machine, Airport Authority of India, Nov 2016
  29. ^ a b In-principle approval for 19 greenfield airports given: Raju, Times of India, 20 December 2017.
  30. ^ a b State police to stand guard at Airports under UDAN scheme, Economic Times, 2 December 2015.
  31. ^ "eAIP India AD-2.1 VIDP". Aai.aero. Archived from the original on 31 March 2014. Retrieved 5 May 2014.
  32. ^ "Delhi Airport busier than Mumbai by 40 flights a day". Indianexpress. 16 August 2009. Retrieved 5 May 2014.
  33. ^ Grammaticas, Damian (9 May 2007). "Sky's the limit for India flight boom". BBC News. Retrieved 5 May 2014.
  34. ^ Vijay Mohan. Army’s helicopter repair hub likely to come up in Hisar, The Tribune, 1 August 2016.
  35. ^ Haryana to develop international airport at Hisar, TravelBizMonitor, Retrieved in March 2016.
  36. ^ State shelves Hisar airport cargo project, The Tribune, 29 May 2015.
  37. ^ "Gujarat to set up India's first civil aviation park", International Business Times, 8 February 2016
  38. ^ "India to build 100 new airports in decade as domestic air travel demand soars". RT International. Retrieved 5 September 2018.
  39. ^ PTI (4 September 2018). "India plans 100 new airports costing $60b". GulfNews.

External links[edit]