DGCA audit finds discrepancies, violations from carriers

New Delhi: One airline does not report incidents which compromise on safety, another does not have the technology for two-way communication with its planes, the third appoints a top operations officer who is not a pilot and all Indian carriers face a serious shortage of aviation safety officials mandatorily required.

A long list of such discrepancies and violations have come to light in a financial audit carried out by the aviation regulator DGCA, which has taken a serious view of such non-compliance or flouting of safety rules by the carriers and decided to take urgent action to rectify the situation.

Top Kingfisher officials have been asked by DGCA to come up with a detailed time-bound plan to implement rectificatory measures on Monday, while the financial surveillance of cash-strapped Air India is to be conducted by DGCA in the next few days. All other airlines have also been given different dates over the week to appear before DGCA, sources said.

The financial audit report has noted that widespread sickness in the aviation industry was seriously impacting safety of flight operations and recommended action under Aircraft Rules and the Civil Aviation Requirements.

Airlines like IndiGo, SpiceJet and GoAir are understood to be either not maintaining crucial data for safe flights or lowering the threshhold for flight operational quality assurance (FOQA). It is a method of capturing and analysing data generated by a flying aircraft to find new ways to improve safety.

While cargo carrier Blue Dart did not have a dedicated channel for two-way communication for aircraft, JetLite did not possess the software to monitor the Digital Flight Data Recorder (blackbox) and GoAir did not carry out engineering audits, a mandatory safety requirement, the DGCA is understood to have said.
Likewise, state-run Alliance Air was found to have "violated" rules by appointing a non-pilot as Executive Director (Operations) which requires technical expertise.

Almost all airlines like Jet Airways, JetLite, Air India Express and Kingfisher lacked pilots and cabin crew, proper and regular training, absence of qualified safety officials and did not comply with safety audits.

IndiGo is understood to have been lambasted for suppressing information on aircraft incidents, which are minor accidents that do not cause major damage to aircraft or lead to injury or fatality. It is mandatory that the incidents are reported to the DGCA by the airline. Noting that investigation procedures adopted by IndiGo were "improper", the DGCA report is understood to have found that the airline closed investigations into several incidents either without reporting to the regulator or without approval.

Due to such deficiencies, DGCA is believed to have observed that IndiGo`s "fast growth induction plan", emanating from its 180 aircraft order to Airbus, needed to be reviewed.

Maintaining that IndiGo had carried out large number of "premature engine removals" in a short span between January and October last year, DGCA is understood to have sought a review of its ETOPs (Extended-range Twin-engine Operational Performance Standards) operations also. ETOPs limit long-distance flights by twin-engined aircraft and allows those having more than two engines.

Reminding Indian carriers not to take "short-cuts" on safety issues, DGCA chief E K Bharat Bhushan has warned them of stringent action if they did not come out with a "specific and realistic" time-table to meet all safety requirements.

The DGCA can, as a final step, cancel their crucial flying permit. It can also curtail their flight schedules or ask them to fly fewer aircraft which they can properly maintain.