After taking stringent action against several airlines and private charters and grounding 14 aircraft for safety violations, aviation regulator DGCA has decided to continue its spree of surprise checks of airports too through the year, official sources said on Monday.
With Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju favouring such checks, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation has prepared a monthly programme of surveillance of airports as well as of all schedule, non-schedule and general aviation companies, foreign airlines and the aviation wings of state governments, they said.
Though a broad schedule of carrying out these checks has been prepared, details regarding which airline or private operator or airport would be targeted are to be decided at the last minute, the sources said, adding the checks would be performed on two foreign scheduled and non-scheduled airlines and on an airport on a monthly basis.
The basic intent of the spot checks and surveillance would be to assess the capability of an operator to carry out aviation operations with an acceptable level of safety, the sources said.
Till June this year, a total of 14 aircraft were grounded by the DGCA, which conducted 55 surprise special surveillance checks as part of its oversight activity to ensure strict compliance of safety regulations.
About 2,400 surveillance audits and 20 regulatory audits have been planned under annual surveillance programme this year.
The checks and audits would cover issues like safety preparedness at airports, whether crucial documents like minimum equipment lists or fire fighting equipment are on board a flight, whether pilots are carrying their licences or how engineering activities or the mandatory breathalyser tests are being conducted by the airlines.
For every deficiency observed, the operator or company would have to take rectification measures within a target date and inform the DGCA, which would then carry out its own checks and audits.
Apart from this, the regulator could take disciplinary action like suspension, cancellation or restricting the scope of various approvals and licenses if it found serious violations of the laid down requirements, the sources said.
Late last month, the DGCA had ordered its own team to carry out a special engineering audit of SpiceJet after it found ‘serious engineering issues with aircraft in the fleet’ of the no-frill carrier.
In a first-of-its-kind action, DGCA had directed SpiceJet to refund fare to all passengers of a Mumbai-Delhi flight that was delayed by about five hours on July 28 due to engineering problems which led the pilots to abort take-off and return to the bay.
DGCA's stepped up safety and surveillance checks come in the backdrop of India's safety rating being downgraded by the US Federal Aviation Administration in January this year.
After taking several measures like recruiting full-time FOIs, the Indian regulator has now urged the FAA to carry out a fresh audit to review its downgrade decision.
The downgrade was ordered primarily due to lack of trained technical manpower including full-time Flight Operation Inspectors at the DGCA.
The technical jobs were so far carried out by part-time FOIs, mostly provided by the airlines from their own technical and engineering personnel.
Mumbai airport's swanky T2; Photograph courtesy: MIAL