DGCA to do safety audit of its airlines; Air India, SpiceJet first under scanner

NEW DELHI: India has ordered a special audit of its carriers beginning with the cash-starved Air India and SpiceJet, in a bid to ensure that weak finances of airlines is not having any safety implications. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has started flight operation quality assurance (FOQA) audit where special teams have been formed to study, among other parameters, flight data recorder readings to see if airlines are taking the required steps to maintain safe operations.
“We will audit all airlines and have started with AI and SpiceJet in the first phase. The safety of passengers is paramount. The audit of airports has already begun,” DGCA chief Arun Kumar said.
Going by the financial yardstick, GoAir could be the third airline to undergo the safety audit. Among big Indian carriers, IndiGo has cash reserves and Vistara and AirAsia India are backed by the Tata Group. Most others are struggling to stay afloat as travel has been the worst hit during the pandemic. Unlike some other countries, India is yet to lend a helping hand to its struggling airlines in the form of some real relief during this pandemic.
An AI official said “there is online surveillance going on for all operators (airlines).” Comments from SpiceJet were sought and awaited. All airlines, including these two, stress that their operations are absolutely safe and that they are following all rules and regulations.
Following the devastating impact of corona on airline fortunes, this time the audit have a special focus on flight operations, engineering (maintenance), medical, training and safety. Releasing aircraft for flights under “minimum equipment list” — meaning conditionally allowing an aircraft to fly with some equipment inoperative and that must be repaired/replaced within a given timeframe — will be under focus this time.
“Majority of the airlines are unable to pay salaries and meet other expenses as cash flow has reduced to a trickle during the pandemic. In such a situation it has to be made sure that the planes that are flying are absolutely airworthy and not compromising safety in any which way,” said sources.
Air India Express is not being covered under this audit as the government has set up a five-member panel to probe the crash-landing of Air India Express flight IX-1344 at Kozhikode on August 7 will examine the functioning of the budget airline. A Boeing 737 NG, flying in from Dubai, had 190 people on board and 18, including both the pilots, lost their lives in this accident.
Following this crash-landing, the DGCA had ordered an audit of 10 to 12 airports in heavy rain areas to conduct physical examination of several factors like runway friction, slope, operational area lighting and overall communication and navigation (CNS) systems. This audit is likely to be completed in a fortnight. It will, however, not cover Calicut Airport as that is being examined as part of the Air India Express crash-landing probe by Aircraft Accident Investigation Board.

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