Planes in cabins with anything that could potentially affect safety – like those things injuring passengers during turbulence in bad weather – will be grounded and allowed to fly again only after the deficiencies have been corrected, said a senior regulator. These verifications will be added to the regular technical inspections.
The exercise began informally with the DGCA recently grounding a Boeing 737 SpiceJet in Bengaluru and then an Air India Airbus A320 in Kolkata when passengers tweeted pictures of shabby interiors, with airlines told to only fly them again after repairs.
“Now we will do this regularly at night when the planes are parked. If anything that could affect safety is detected, the planes will be grounded until the airline corrects the deficiencies,” said one. senior official.
“(Comprehensive checks) are underway. We covered about half of the fleet (of SpiceJet’s 70 planes). Deficiencies are identified and corrected. Will not let an aircraft with a safety issue fly without being properly monitored. We expect things to improve shortly,” DGCA chief Arun Kumar told TOI.
The formal exercise began with low-cost SpiceJet. Budget carrier promoter Ajay Singh met with senior DGCA officials on Wednesday, including DGCA Arun Kumar and his deputy and chief security officer Maneesh Chopra.
“The message to SpiceJet was very clear: they need to spend money to ensure safety of operations is a top priority. They can defer all other spending but cannot compromise on safety,” officials said. people in the know.
After the priority control of the 70 SpiceJet planes, the DGCA teams will turn to other airlines. The first to go under the scanner are airlines with fragile finances and/or old aircraft.
“Some aircraft may need to be grounded for varying periods of time until all necessary repairs are completed. Some flights may be canceled because of this, but ensuring passenger safety is paramount,” exercise officials said.
In the past, the DGCA carried out financial audits when a particular airline or airlines were in serious financial difficulty. Kingfisher, for example, suffered this exercise in 2010. None of the Indian carriers had strong balance sheets until the end of 2019, with the sole exception of IndiGo which had healthy cash reserves. The devastating effect of Covid on air travel has further weakened all airlines, including dragging IndiGo – the only sustainably profitable airline through the start of 2020 – into heavy losses.
“Today, every airline has fragile finances. Only a few airlines are part of cash-rich groups (such as the Tatas which now have several airlines in their fold). Carrying out a financial audit will reveal what is The best option in these particular pandemic circumstances is to put all aircraft under the scanner, each from each airline prioritizing the checks of those belonging to airlines which are financially weak airlines and/or which have aging planes,” one person in the know said.