Pune: Just imagine if you are flying in a twin-engine aircraft and one of the aircraft’s engine fails, you still have a chance to come out safely after the pilot makes an emergency landing using the operational engine.
Now, imagine you are taking off or landing (the most crucial phases of a flight) or airborne in a twin-engine aircraft, which already has a defective engine and the good engine of the aircraft fails. Your chances of survival, in this case, are minimal.
This very situation has been created by Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) in the Indian airspace wherein instead of taking care of the aviation safety, they are busy providing benefits to aircraft manufacturers and airlines.
The case of Airbus 320neo
The current example of DGCA’s lackadaisical attitude towards aviation safety is the operation of Airbus 320neo (new engine option) aircraft operated by Indigo and GoAir airlines in the Indian skies despite EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency) emergency airworthiness directives for A320neo family on February 9, 2018. Thus, despite the airworthiness directives on A320 neo family, DGCA has allowed 24 aircraft of Indigo and 10 aircraft of Go Air to operate in Indian airspace, putting lives of passengers in danger.
PIL in Delhi HC
A public interest litigation to ground these has been filed in Delhi High Court on March 14 by a Kerala-based lawyer Yashwant Shenoy. The petition, which has DGCA and Ministry of Civil Aviation as respondents, requests to ground these 34 aircraft on an immediate basis.
The petition states that Indian air carriers have inducted Airbus 320neos in their fleet in 2016. However, during the operation of these aircraft, repetitive defects relating to distress in the combustion chamber and oil chips warning due to wear of No. 3 bearing was found by the DGCA.
DGCA did not ground the fleet even when in the 18-month period from March 2016 to September 2017, 69 engine failures took place in Indigo alone.
The petition further added that on February 9, 2018, the EASA came out with an emergency airworthiness directive that put operational restrictions and the DGCA grounded three aircraft following this but did not ground the entire fleet.
34 flying coffins!
The petitioner, Yashwant Shenoy, told Sakal Times, “The DGCA did not ground the fleet despite EASA directives of February 9. Between February 15, 2018 and March 12, 2018, there have been 5 more engine failures. On March 12, 2018, an aircraft made an emergency landing in Ahmedabad after engine failure and the DGCA finally grounded 11 aircraft.”
He alleged that DGCA, by grounding these aircraft, wanted only to douse the increasing media attention on the issue. “There are still 34 aircraft operating in Indian airspace, which are not only ‘flying coffins’ but also ‘flying missiles’,” he added.
“What is shocking is the suggestion of the DGCA that these aircraft have only one ‘defective’ engine, and the aircraft could safely operate with the other engine. How can they even say that, if an aircraft is flying with only one operational engine, then what will happen if in case that engine fails, the plane will not be able to land safely and there will be large-scale loss of lives,” added Shenoy.
Shenoy in his petition states that the DGCA violated Aircraft Act & Rules thereunder, its own CAR’s made under Rule 133A, in allowing these aircraft with known defects to operate. He said, “The most shocking thing is that same Joint Director General, JS Rawat, is in charge of airworthiness as well as of aerodrome designs. He approves buildings with extra height around the airport on the basis of Aeronautical Studies, which clearly exempt ‘degraded performance of aircraft’, which in other words means aircraft operating with one engine.”