India’s aviation regulator means business and safety are non-negotiable, India’s aviation regulator chief Arun Kumar told CNBC-TV18 in an exclusive interview.
“There is a bit of hype and unnecessary hype around normal events. Many times an aborted takeoff or a missed approach is actually a safety maneuver and improves safety. Air travel is absolutely safe and our track record is great,” Civil Aviation Directorate General Director General Arun Kumar said.
The regulator regularly monitors Indian airlines through an annual monitoring plan, spot checks, night monitoring and cockpit monitoring to ensure that only airworthy planes are in service, Kumar added.
“The annual surveillance program is the backbone of safety oversight,” Kumar said.
Read also :
A total of 177 surveillances, 497 spot checks and 169 night surveillances were carried out by the DGCA on the engineering and maintenance aspects of regular operators in the last year between July 2021 and June 2022.
Based on violations found during surveillance, spot checks and night surveillance carried out in 2021-22, enforcement action was taken by the DGCA against the responsible personnel of an airline in 21 cases of offences.
“The aircraft is a complex and robust machine with thousands of components and its use is very rigorous. India has a very young fleet and the reliability of its flight dispatch is one of the best in the world. In time, technical issues are possible and a standard operating procedure according to globally approved standards is followed in the event of a technical issue,” Kumar said.
“Passengers affected by diversions or flight delays will not be happy, but safe navigation is our priority. According to last year’s data, an aircraft sees 0.6 hitches in a year. There may be 1 to 2 technical incidents per day out of 6,000 flight movements. A driver must be alert and alert to any signs of technical problems. Many times an indicator of a technical issue can be wrong, but a pilot should respond to that as well as SOP,” Kumar added.
He further stated that technical issues can and do occur in Indian aircraft as well as foreign registered aircraft. In fact, five technical issues have been reported at foreign airlines in the past five days.
“Countries all over the world are facing technical glitches in aircraft, India is no exception. We ensure safety by following prescribed SOPs and processes. Technical glitches in aircraft are no reason to lose sleep or panicking. Technical hiccups will happen and we have to deal with them maturely. The hype about technical issues in airplanes is unwarranted,” Kumar said.
The air safety issue has come into focus over the past month after several incidents of technical issues were reported at airlines including SpiceJet, GoFIRST, IndiGo, Air India, Vistara and Air India Express, linked to engine problems, windshield cracks, smoke in the cabin, equipment malfunction among others.
Although there is a usual spike in incidents during the monsoon season, the recent situation indicates a low focus on aircraft maintenance by airlines.
Airlines in India and around the world have witnessed one of the worst nightmares of the past couple of years due to low traffic, idle planes and sluggish revenue environment. The net loss for Indian carriers is pegged at around Rs 18,500 crore in FY21 and for FY22 it is expected to exceed Rs 20,000 crore.
On the other hand, although there has been a recovery in traffic, the numbers have not been able to sustain and domestic traffic is currently around 70-75% of the pre-COVID level. Therefore, although fares are high, they do not contribute to the revenue environment as airlines are unable to utilize 100% of the fleet due to lower demand. Additionally, there are constant headwinds of heavy aviation turbine fuel taxes and a weak rupee. Consequently, several industry experts indicate that there is an underlying problem of capitalization and that airlines continue to strengthen their cost reduction measures.
Recently, after cases of aircraft being cleared by junior engineers, the DGCA issued an order to all airlines requiring them to delegate senior engineers to clear an arriving or departing aircraft. The purpose of the command is to ensure efficient maintenance of aircraft with correct identification of snags.
With 100 to 120 aircraft expected to be added to the Indian aviation market every year, regular and efficient maintenance will be the key to smooth operation. India’s current airline fleet comprises 692 planes, with IndiGo leading with 283 planes, then Air India at 116, then SpiceJet at 87, GoFIRST at 57 and Vistara at 56.
Low-cost carrier SpiceJet has been under heightened radar by the regulator after several incidents of technical issues were reported to the airline over the past two months. This followed a demonstration notice to the airline on July 5 and now a cap has been imposed on the airline, allowing it to operate up to 50% of its summer schedule.
“We have taken action on SpiceJet as the airline currently does not have the capacity to operate more than 50% of flight operations. This is an unprecedented action on the capacity of a scheduled carrier in the world. “Indian aviation history. Our goal is to keep an airline running safely and efficiently, not to shut down an operating airline. SpiceJet has shown signs of improvement and they are more cautious now. SpiceJet engineers work day in and day out and ensure that aircraft with technical issues do not operate,” Kumar said.
A pay dispute has also emerged in Indian airlines over the past two years as airlines have implemented pay cuts. Recently, several cabin crew members and technicians at IndiGo and GoFIRST took mass furlough in silent protest against low wages. Although the issue of wages is solely between an employer and an employee, the regulator has clarified that there is a certain role to play when it has an impact on safety.
“We have a role to play in airline wage disputes over safety. We have a role to play in intervening when employees are unhappy, don’t work or don’t show up. We had stepped in when there was an issue with two airlines over wages,” Kumar said.
As part of the 2022 annual surveillance plan, the DGAC will carry out 3,700 checks. In line with the increase in work concurrent with the expansion of the size of the fleet, the regulator also plans to increase its staff by 100 to 150 people over the next 6 to 8 months for night checks and enhanced surveillance. .