Indian airline service providers continue to be in news for risky landings and inflight fiascos. Peeved with the situation, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), on Wednesday, issued a show-cause notice to budget carrier SpiceJet for reporting eight malfunction incidents in the last 18 days.
The DGCA has accused the private airline of failing to establish safe, efficient and reliable air services under Aircraft Rules, 1937. It’s important to note that the regulator has been pointing out the lack of safety standards among Indian carriers for a long time. The latest incident involved a SpiceJet flight that was headed to Chongqing in China, returning to Kolkata on Tuesday after the pilots realised that the aircraft’s weather radar was not working.
In the past, a SpiceJet 737 Max aircraft travelling from Delhi to Dubai made an emergency landing in Karachi owing to a technical glitch. Indigo, India’s largest private carrier in the domestic market, had also reported delays of as many as 900 IndiGo flights earlier.
Taking cognisance of the increasing incidents, the Indian aviation watchdog has issued several notices and imposed fines on Indian airlines in the past few months. But things don’t seem to be changing for good.
India is the third-largest aviation market in the world after the UK and China and is expected to grow tremendously over the next few years. The passenger traffic in the country is expected to grow at 6.2 per cent per annum by 2040. However, as the domestic sector gears up to fly again post the COVID-19 pandemic slump by adding new fleets, it faces the dual challenge of ensuring customer safety amidst the rising competition.
In February this year, the Minister Of State For Civil Aviation V K Singh informed the Lok Sabha that India has an annual requirement of around 1,000 fresh commercial pilots against the current supply of about 200 to 300 pilots in the country. With the Indian aviation market taking off after the lifting of the COVID restrictions, the situation has worsened.
Besides the shortage of pilots, the aviation industry is also grappling with incidents of flight operations by untrained pilots. In April, the DGCA barred 90 SpiceJet pilots over improper training and operations of Boeing 737 Max aircraft and issued a show-cause notice to the airline. The fault for failing to discipline their flight crew lies entirely with the Indian airlines.
Problem Within The Cockpit
Despite the DGCA issuing guidelines for less age gap between the captain and co-pilot, a big age gap between the two continues to pose a challenge for airlines. Owing to this, several incidents of mishaps have been reported in the past few years.
Several media reports previously quoted senior pilots alleging younger pilots of having no interest in learning about the aircraft and instead living the high life and getting drunk while on duty.
Between January 2021 and March 2022, a total of 84 workers across 42 airports were found drunk on duty, according to DGCA. Of these 84 employees, 64 per cent failed the mandatory breath analyser (BA) alcohol test.
Similarly, between January 1 and April 30, 2022, DGCA suspended nine pilots and 32 crew members of different airlines after they failed the pre-flight BA test.
In 2019, the DGCA issued a mandatory BA test for all airport workers as well as the cabin crew and pilots.