By Hemal Gosai
Regulators Inspect Aircraft Across India
In early May, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) — India’s commercial aviation regulator — started overnight inspections of many aircraft across the county.
The goal of the initiative is to inspect aircraft that belong to Indian carriers with weak finances or aging fleets. When considering the state of Indian aviation, this includes a good number of airlines. Teams were sent out to look for anything that could impact safety, from the conditions of aircraft interiors to maintenance.
The inspections started with the carrier SpiceJet after complaints about cabin interiors and an incident with severe turbulence which caused multiple injuries from carry on bags falling from overhead bins. As of the second week of May, regulators had inspected approximately half of SpiceJet’s fleet.
Aircraft found deficient during these safety inspections will be grounded until the repairs have been made. Officials stated, “The message conveyed to SpiceJet was very clear. They need to spend money to ensure safe operations, it’s an absolute priority. They can defer all other expenses but cannot compromise on safety.”
As of May 11, regulators have conducted 213 inspections of aircraft totaling 149 aircraft. 113 SpiceJet aircraft, 25 for IndiGo, 21 for Vistara, 17 for Go First, 17 for Air India, 14 for AirAsia India, 3 for Alliance Air, 2 for Star Air, and 1 for Flybig. These inspections have uncovered a number of problems ranging from damaged seats and cabin interiors to missing safety signage and discrepancies with maintenance records. There we cases of issues that we previously reported to the airlines earlier in the year for repair but were never carried out. One aircraft was found to have “fasten seat belt while seated” and “life vest under the seat” signage missing in six rows.
Most notably, an Airbus A319 of an unnamed airline was undergoing maintenance in Mumbai on May 6 when inspectors appeared. The aircraft was undergoing a tire replacement of the main landing gear without the presence of a maintenance engineer. No documentation on the work being carried out was available from the technicians present conducting the maintenance. Additionally, inspectors noted that there were significant lighting issues as well, stating that the amount of light available was not enough to adequately complete the required tasks.
There is some debate on the best way to undertake this. Not everyone is sold on the idea of prioritizing inspections of aircraft that belong to airlines with weak finances. Nearly all airlines in India have precarious finances, so additional audits of books and inspections of aircraft may not uncover anything additional.