‘Aircraft systems are reasonably robust, have sufficient redundancies’: aviation regulator’s Director General Arun Kumar

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) is enhancing its surveillance on airlines to minimise technical malfunction incidents that have plagued Indian carriers over the last few months, the aviation regulator’s Director General Arun Kumar told Pranav Mukul in an interview. Kumar also explained why there has been a sudden increase in the number of such occurrences. Edited excerpts:

Why has there been a rise in safety-related incidents on board Indian aircraft?

We are overreacting and probably panicking too much. Aircraft systems are reasonably robust and have sufficient redundancies, which enable them to tide over exigencies. To our institutional knowledge, the kind of technical glitches, which have engaged our attention beyond all measure and have been portrayed as life-threatening/disastrous, are actually routine and do happen in all airlines across the world for all kind of aircraft types for the simple reason that the machine is similar and normal wear/tear is inevitable .

What is required is that as flight crew, you need to be alert, vigilant and respond to situations as they unfold and if you follow the standard operating procedures, you can navigate without compromising safety.

It means if on ground, you attend to symptoms of snag before proceeding further and if in air, do the checklist actions appropriately and, if required, seek a priority, precautionary or emergency landing as the case may be. Remember, all these are safety valves and need to be pressed in action to avoid an actual safety issue. Yes, it may result in delays, diversions, cancellation causing inconvenience, but will not cause irreparable harm.

Is there an increase in the reportage of these incidents?

Safety manoeuvres are part of a safety management system and must be welcomed. A missed approach or rejected take-off should not be viewed as a safety issue as they strengthen safety. We should worry about actual issues such as serious incidents or accidents as defined by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and not for usual bird hits with no consequences. I must place on record our appreciation for our pilots, who have shown exemplary competence and have negotiated such snags with confidence and have not compromised safety.

What steps is DGCA taking to prevent these occurrences?

We, on our part, are doing everything possible to minimise such events through enhanced surveillance. All regulatory agencies follow similar protocol and we are no exception. We believe that we will be able to arrest the trend sooner than later. Some events may still happen, which we will deal with as per the laiddown procedures.

Could Covid-19 have played a role in why these snags are becoming more prevalent?

The reasons for increasing number of technical snags appear to be Covid-related, which impacted airline operations due to lockdown and curtailed operations, etc. Also, there is a universal problem of manpower shortage after Covid-19, not just with one airline or one country.

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