The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Thursday pulled up all scheduled domestic airlines for neglecting safety due to financial stress and said it would not allow any carrier to cut corners on the safety front.
While asking all the airlines to sort out the safety issues in a time-bound manner, India’s civil aviation regulator ruled out any threat to close down private carrier Kingfisher and Air India Express, wholly-owned subsidiary of State owned Air India which flies mainly to the Gulf on economical fares.
The DGCA carried out surveillance of scheduled domestic airlines in December 2011 and noted several findings with respect to flight crew training, flight operations quality assurance monitoring, shortage of operational crew and delay in disbursement of salaries. Officials sources said that Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of all these airlines have been called by the DGCA for detailed examination.
``There were apprehensions indicated about Kingfisher Airlines having a number of aircraft on ground for want of engines / spares due to which they were operating a truncated schedule. With regard to Air India Express, concern was expressed about some safety issues that remain pending and shortage of training captains,’’ DGCA said in a press note.
The financial surveillance report of the DGCA noticed widespread sickness in the sector and asked all airlines to take immediate measures to resolve the lapses. Apart from cancellation of flying permits, the report also suggested steps like slashing of flights or asking the carriers to fly a lesser number of aircraft which they can properly maintain.
This is for the first time that such a financial audit was carried out by DGCA. It was conducted following recommendations of the Civil Aviation Ministry's Safety Advisory Council. Though Kingfisher Airlines and Air India's budget carrier, Air India Express, came in the firing line of the regulator, other airlines also could not escape the DGCA wrath on safety count.
Senior officials of Kingfisher and Air India Express were summoned by DGCA on Thursday and asked to submit a plan by Monday on steps they would take to resolve safety issues in a time-bound manner.
"There is no cause for panic. The situation has certainly not come to that pass (where airlines' permits are withdrawn). There has been no threat to close down any airline,’’ DGCA chief E K Bharat Bhushan told reporters when asked whether Kingfisher's permit would be withdrawn as recommended.
``All airlines are going through a critical patch. It is a challenge to see that their financial constraints do not hamper safety. It is our duty to ensure that nobody takes the short-cut on the safety front,’’ he added.
In a statement, Kingfisher said that DGCA has asked it to provide a specific timeline for getting the grounded aircraft back in the air and for its recapitalisation efforts.
``We would like to clarify that DGCA did not have any significant findings or concerns with regard to safety at Kingfisher Airlines and that we have adequate number of pilots and engineers to operate our scheduled services,’’ Sanjay Aggarwal, CEO of Kingfisher said. He assured the travellers that ``safety is of paramount importance and our scheduled flights will continue to operate with safety in full compliance with regulator requirements and stipulations in this regard.’’ After recently shutting down its low cost arm, Kingfisher Red, the private carrier is in the process of turning into a full service carrier.