The lockdowns and curtailed airline operations due to Covid could be the reason behind the increasing number of technical malfunctions being reported by Indian airlines, DGCA chief Arun Kumar told The Indian Express, adding that the aviation safety regulator is enhancing its surveillance to minimise such events.
“The reasons for the 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, not just with one airline or one country,” Kumar said in an interview.
According to official data sourced from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), over 460 technical snags were reported by airlines in India in the last one year.
Last week, the DGCA ordered a special audit of all commercial airlines following a number of “engineering related incidents” across various carriers. As part of its inspection, the regulator will study the availability of manpower, facilities and equipment, in addition to the aircraft grounded on account of non-availability of spares.
Kumar also said that many of the technical glitches “are actually routine”. “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. This means that 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,” he said.
“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,” he said.
Recent spot checks by the DGCA found that airlines are improperly identifying causes of reported defects on aircraft, and are not placing qualified engineers at all airports.
Over the last few months, Indian carriers have been plagued by technical malfunctions ranging from engine snags and burning smell in the cabin to cabin depressurisation. Last week, an Air India-operated Boeing 787 wide-body plane with around 260 people on board suffered cabin depressurisation while flying from Dubai to Kochi, leading to oxygen masks being deployed and some of the passengers suffering nosebleeds.
Earlier this month, an IndiGo-operated Airbus A320neo plane, on its way from Sharjah to Hyderabad, diverted to Karachi in Pakistan after pilots were notified of an engine fault in the aircraft’s right engine.
Prior to this incident, an Air India Express plane from Kozhikode to Dubai diverted to Muscat in Oman after a burning smell was reported in one of the vents in the Boeing 737-800 aircraft’s forward galley.
Low-cost airline SpiceJet saw at least eight incidents in less than a month during May-June, following which the regulator issued a showcause notice to the airline, saying it had “failed” to establish safe, efficient and reliable air services.