February 22, 2020
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"Facilities In India Are As Good As Anywhere"

For Civil Aviation Ministr Chand Mahal Ibrahim, it has been baptism by fire. Four-and-a-half months after taking over, he finds himself in the middle of the third biggest disaster in aviation history. Ibrahim initially indicated that he would quit bu

"Facilities In India Are As Good As Anywhere"

How are you tackling the crisis?

You would agree that I am new to the ministry. A court of inquiry is looking into the crash and I would not like to comment on who was at fault. The inquiry headed by an honourable judge will submit its report by February 15. If the need arises, we will even extend the date because we are interested in finding out the full truth.

Is our navigational equipment up to the mark? The Kazakh airliner and the Saudis hint that all was not well at the air traffic control.

That is not true because if that was the case then foreign airliners that operate in the country would refuse to do so. Commercial aviation is not something that is confined to this country alone. It transcends national boundaries. Our facilities are as good as anywhere.

What about the new systems that have been installed but are not operational?

Well, a monopulse secondary surveillance radar (MSSR) or a modern system of tracking airplanes, which can assess both horizontal and vertical differences between aircraft, was supposed to have been installed by October 1995. The Government had approved the project in 1990. The contract was awarded in 1993. Hopefully by March, it will be in place at both Mumbai and Delhi. At present, primary radars are installed at Delhi airport.

In 1995, the Pilots’ Association had suggested CAT-2 landing systems, installation of transponders and VHF communications system. What has the ministry done about it?

Well, MSSR radars are being installed as part of the modernisation programme at Delhi and Mumbai airports which will be able to obtain data from transponders installed on the aircraft.

What about the investigation itself? Some people say that unless foreign independent observers are called in, it may be difficult to arrive at an objective conclusion as to what led to the crash.

The inquiry committee is wide open. Anyone can depose before the court of inquiry. Even foreign experts can come, should they want to do so. We have placed the tape system before the judge. It is not confidential. Anyone can see it. It is for the honourable judge to decide.

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