Eight safety-related incidents in 18 days, DGCA slaps notice on SpiceJet; regulator body sounds caution

The DGCA termed the airline’s internal safety oversight as ‘poor’, adding its ‘inadequate’ maintenance actions have resulted in ‘degradation’ of the safety margins of SpiceJet.

Published: 07th July 2022 02:38 AM  |   Last Updated: 07th July 2022 09:09 AM   |  A+A-

Dubai-bound SpiceJet Boeing 737 Max aircraft after its landing following a fuel indicator malfunction, at Karachi Airport. (Photo | PTI)

Express News Service

NEW DELHI: A day after SpiceJet reported two major technical glitches on its aircraft mid-air, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Wednesday issued a show-cause notice to the budget carrier.

The aviation regulator asked the airline to explain why action should not be taken against it for failing to “establish a safe, efficient and reliable air service” under terms of Rule 134 and Schedule XI of the Aircraft Rules, 1937. 

There have been eight incidents of mid-air technical snags in the past 18 days on various SpiceJet aircraft. 

The DGCA termed the airline’s internal safety oversight as ‘poor’, adding its ‘inadequate’ maintenance actions have resulted in ‘degradation’ of the safety margins of SpiceJet, as most of the incidents are related to either component failure or system failure.  

Union Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia said even the smallest error hindering the safety of travellers will be thoroughly investigated and course-corrected. SpiceJet chief Ajay Singh said the airline will be “doubly careful” from now on and strengthen inspection of aircraft before each flight. 

The SpiceJet security breach also brought to light malfunction cases of other airlines. An engine of a Vistara flight from Bangkok failed upon landing at Delhi on Tuesday. Smoke was spotted at an IndiGo Raipur-Indore flight in the plane after it landed at its destination. 

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 Directorate General of Civil Aviation (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.

About 30 flight incidents happen every day in the country and a majority of them have no safety implications, Arun Kumar, chief of aviation regulator DGCA, said on Wednesday.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) issued a show-cause notice Wednesday to SpiceJet after its planes had eight technical malfunctions over the past 18 days.

In a statement on Wednesday, Kumar said: "On an average, about 30 incidents do take place, which includes go around, missed approaches, diversion, medical emergencies, weather issues, bird hits, runway incursion, runway excursion et al."

"Most of them have no safety implications. On the contrary, they are sine qua non (essential condition) of a robust safety management system," he added.

In its show-cause notice to SpiceJet, the DGCA said the airline has failed to "establish safe, efficient and reliable air services" under the terms of Rule 134 and Schedule XI of the Aircraft Rules, 1937.

In an interview with PTI on Wednesday, SpiceJet CMD Ajay Singh said that a lot of incidents that are being reported are relatively minor in nature and happen to every airline.

"This is nothing unique," he added.

''When you have thousands of flights, sometimes the air conditioning will fail, sometimes a bird will hit the plane, and sometimes a fuel indicator will light up.

"These things are going to happen and, of course, we have to minimise that to the greatest extent possible. That is our job and it is the regulator's job to push us to make things better, which we will do," he noted.

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.

Like SpiceJet, IndiGo and Vistara also suffered technical malfunction incidents on Tuesday.

An engine of a Vistara aircraft on its way from Bangkok failed after it landed at the Delhi airport but all passengers disembarked safely, officials of the aviation regulator DGCA said on Wednesday.

When approached for comments, the airline said the integrated drive generator (IDG) on the engine developed a "minor" electrical malfunction after it landed at the Indira Gandhi International Airport on Tuesday.

The cabin crew of an IndiGo Raipur-Indore flight observed smoke in the plane after it landed at its destination on Tuesday, officials said.

(With PTI Inputs)



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