Aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) issued a show-cause notice Wednesday to SpiceJet after it reported eight technical malfunction incidents involving its planes over the last 18 days, flagging safety oversight, inadequate maintenance and payment-related shortage of spares.
SpiceJet has failed to 'establish safe, efficient and reliable air services' under the terms of Rule 134 and Schedule XI of the Aircraft Rules, 1937, the notice issued by the DGCA stated.
'The review (of the incidents) transpires that poor internal safety oversight and inadequate maintenance actions (as most of the incidents were related to either component failure or system-related failure) have resulted in degradation of the safety margins,' it added.
The DGCA has given the airline three weeks to respond to the notice.
'Financial assessment carried out by DGCA in September 2021 has also revealed that the airline is operating on 'cash-and-carry' (model) and suppliers/approved vendors are not being paid on a regular basis, leading to shortage of spares and frequent invoking of MELs (minimum equipment lists),' the notice read.
Reacting to the DGCA notice, Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia asserted that passenger safety is paramount.
'Even the smallest error hindering safety will be thoroughly investigated and course-corrected,' the minister said in a tweet.
In a statement on Wednesday, the airline said it is in receipt of the DGCA notice and will be responding within the specified time period.
'We are committed to ensuring a safe operation for our passengers and crew. We are an IATA-IOSA (IATA Operational Safety Audit) certified airline. SpiceJet successfully completed the meticulous audit program for recertification in October 2021,' it mentioned.
The airline said it has been regularly audited by the DGCA.
'All our aircraft were audited a month ago by the regulator and found to be safe. All flights of SpiceJet are conducted in compliance with the applicable regulations of the DGCA Civil Aviation Regulations on the subject,' it noted.
At least eight incidents of technical malfunction have taken place on SpiceJet planes in the last 18 days.
On Tuesday, a SpiceJet freighter aircraft, which was heading to Chongqing in China, returned to Kolkata as the pilots realised after the take-off that its weather radar was not working.
On the same day, the airline's Delhi-Dubai flight was diverted to Karachi due to a malfunctioning fuel indicator and its Kandla-Mumbai flight did priority landing in Maharashtra's capital city after cracks developed on its windshield mid-air.
On July 2, a SpiceJet flight heading to Jabalpur returned to Delhi after the crew members observed smoke in the cabin at an altitude of around 5,000 feet.
Fuselage door warnings lit up on two separate SpiceJet planes while taking off on June 24 and June 25, forcing the aircraft to abandon their journeys and return.
On June 19, an engine on the carrier's Delhi-bound aircraft carrying 185 passengers caught fire soon after it took off from the Patna airport and the plane made an emergency landing minutes later.
The engine malfunctioned because of a bird hit.
In another incident on June 19, a SpiceJet flight for Jabalpur had to return to Delhi due to cabin pressurisation issues.
The airline has been making losses for the last three years. It incurred a net loss of Rs 316 crore, Rs 934 crore and Rs 998 crore in 2018-19, 2019-20 and 2020-21 respectively.