NEW DELHI: The DGCA has rapped all the Indian air carriers over the issue of neglecting safety due to financial constraints and made it clear on Thursday no airline would be allowed to take a “short-cut” on the safety front.
The country’s civil aviation regulator while directing the airlines to sort out the safety issues in a time-bound manner, however, said after a meeting with officials of Kingfisher and Air India Express that there is no threat to close them down.
Recommending stringent action, including cancellation of flying permit of Kingfisher and restriction of Air India Express operations, a financial surveillance report of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation found widespread sickness in the sector and asked all airlines to take immediate rectificatory measures to resolve the lapses.
Apart from cancellation of flying permits, the report also suggested steps like slashing of flights or asking the carriers to fly a lesser number of aircraft which they can properly maintain.
This was the first time that such a financial audit was carried out by DGCA. It was conducted following recommendations of the civil aviation ministry’s safety advisory council.
Though Kingfisher Airlines and Air India’s low-budget carrier mainly faced the wrath of civil aviation regulator, other airlines too got a rap on safety count.
Top officials of these two carriers were summoned by the DGCA on Thursday and asked to submit a plan by Monday on steps they would take to resolve safety issues in a time-bound manner.
“There is no cause for panic. The situation has certainly not come to that pass (where airlines’ permits are withdrawn). There has been no threat to close down any airline,” the DGCA chief, Mr E K Bharat Bhushan told reporters when asked whether Kingfisher’s permit would be withdrawn as recommended.
“All airlines are going through a critical patch. It is a challenge to see that their financial constraints do not hamper safety. It is our duty to ensure that nobody takes the short-cut on the safety front,” he said.
The DGCA chief said there were “significant findings” in the report of the audit, which was carried out over three-four months, on issues like maintenance of aircraft, shortage of commanders, pilots and cabin crew, lack of adequate training, scarcity of aircraft engines, components and crucial spares.
On Kingfisher, the report said, “A reasonable case exists for withdrawal of their (Kingfisher’s) airline operator permit as their financial stress is likely to impinge on safety.”
Regarding AI Express, it said, “A prima facie case exists for restricting their operations in view of safety issues.”
After the meeting, the Kingfisher CEO, Mr Sanjay Aggarwal told PTI: “We met the Director General. We were asked to and we will submit a plan on recovery of flights and recapitalisation (of the airline) by Monday.”
He also maintained that the DGCA had carried out two safety audits of Kingfisher in the past three months and there were “no significant findings”.
At least 20 of the 64-aircraft fleet of Mr Vijay Mallya-owned airline are grounded for a “multitude of reasons”, including want of engines, spares or reconfiguration of seats, Mr Aggarwal said.
The regulator has asked Kingfisher to include in the plan as to how and by when it would restore its flight schedule, which has been curtailed due to the grounding of 20 planes. Replying to questions, the DGCA chief said he has held meetings with top officials of other carriers like SpiceJet, GoAir, IndiGo, Jet Airways, JetLite over the past few weeks.
“All of them have been told about the lapses and asked to inform us about their plans to rectify their problems in a time-bound manner. If there are shortfalls or drawbacks, these will have to be addressed,” Mr Bhushan said.