Aviation regulator DGCA has started a 2-month-long special audit of airlines after its spot checks earlier this month found that insufficient and unqualified engineering personnel are certifying carriers’ planes before their departure, officials said.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) conducted the spot checks as there have been many technical malfunction incidents in Indian carriers’ planes during the last 45 days.
The focus of the aforementioned special audit will be facilities like hangars and stores, equipment being used by airline personnel, airlines’ quality assurance system, aircraft grounded due to lack of spare parts and airlines’ maintenance control centre, a DGCA order dated July 18 stated.
The special audit will also focus on availability of “sufficient, suitably qualified and experienced” manpower, duty time limitations, availability of current maintenance data for all types of aircraft, adequacy of aircraft turn-around time during transit and “multiple MEL releases”, as per the order, which has been accessed by PTI.
“MEL (minimum equipment list) releases” means an aircraft is allowed to fly with certain inoperative equipment or instruments for a specific period of time, until the repairs are done.
There have been reports of increased engineering-related occurrences in scheduled airlines in recent times,” the order mentioned.
The order said the special audit of all scheduled airlines is starting from July 19 in order to ensure that they are adhering to the “laid down standards”.
The DGCA officials said the special audit will be completed within the next two months.
After conducting spot checks, the regulator had last week revealed its findings. The spot checks found that insufficient and unqualified engineering personnel are certifying planes of various carriers before their departure.
Before each departure, an aircraft is checked and certified by an aircraft maintenance engineer (AME). The spot checks found that the AME teams of airlines are improperly identifying the “cause of a reported defect”, the DGCA said.
They also found that there has been an “increasing trend of MEL (minimum equipment list) releases” of aircraft, it noted.
“It is also seen that airlines are resorting to frequent one-off authorisation to Category A certifying staff at transit stations which is not in line with existing regulatory provisions,” it mentioned.
The engineering head of one of the Indian airlines explained that a Category A engineer is called a ‘limited scope engineer’, and he or she is allowed to certify and release planes for departures only when the aircraft does not have any complex defect.
Therefore, the DGCA had last week issued guidelines for airlines, asking them to deploy sufficient and qualified AME personnel, and directing them to comply by July 28.
There have been many technical malfunction incidents in Indian carriers’ planes during the last 45 days.
Air India’s Dubai-Kochi flight was diverted to Mumbai on July 21 after the pilot-in-command reported a loss in cabin pressure. On July 21, Go First’s Mumbai-Leh and Srinagar-Delhi flights faced engine snags. A Go First flight heading from Delhi to Guwahati on July 20 was diverted to Jaipur after the A320neo aircraft’s windshield cracked mid-air.
On July 17, IndiGo’s Sharjah-Hyderabad flight was diverted to Karachi as a precautionary measure after pilots observed a defect in one engine.
On the night of July 16, the Calicut-Dubai flight of the Air India Express was diverted to Muscat after a burning smell was observed in the cabin mid-air. A live bird was found in the cockpit of the Air India Express Bahrain-Kochi flight on July 15.
SpiceJet is also under the scanner. On July 6, the DGCA issued a show-cause notice to SpiceJet following at least eight incidents of technical malfunction in its aircraft since June 19.