A year after the air crash at Mangalore, nothing has changed

Ashwini Phadnis New Delhi | Updated on November 12, 2017 Published on May 21, 2011

Little or nothing has changed in the low-cost arm of Air India (AI) or possibly in the entire civil aviation sector in the year since the IXE 812 of Air India Express crashed in Mangalore killing 158 people.

An official investigation is believed to have questioned the pattern of flying followed by the airline. The pattern followed by the airline, said the report, provided a strong reason for the crew to fall asleep.

The crew would leave India in the evening, arriving at the foreign station late at night, spending a few hours at the airport, before operating the same flight back to reach India early the next morning. The investigating committee is also believed to have pointed out that the airline expanded too quickly. In the process, some other aspects like training and manpower were overlooked.

Training has become more stringent, but otherwise, it is business as usual.

Unperturbed, Air India's low-cost airline has seen two Chief Operating Officers come and go since then.

A former senior official of the Ministry of Civil Aviation, who was in office at the time of the crash, adds that the crash was waiting to happen.

“They were willing to hire foreign pilots from just about anywhere without looking into various issues including psychological ones,” he said.

The Directorate-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has reviewed the Foreign Aircrew Temporary Authorisation (FATA) rules and made it mandatory for foreign pilots to have a medical check in India before being allowed to fly. Before the crash, foreign pilots were allowed to fly even if they produced medical certificates from foreign countries.

DGCA understaffed

But DGCA is understaffed and is dependent on the industry for some of its staff. This is creating a whole new set of problems for it.

“It is ironical but the flight operations instructors with DGCA who are supposed to check the records of pilots are from various airlines. We are thoroughly understaffed. While the Government has sanctioned more staff, getting the paper work done to get them is a herculean task. We need autonomy to function,” a senior DGCA official pointed out.

AIEL insiders blame its continued dependency on Air India for technical and logistics support.

There is the chronic shortage of commanders and training captains. 45 per cent of the commanders and 80 per cent of the co-pilots are from AI.

“The only hope for AI Express to function as a viable entity is setting up a totally independent airline based out of Kochi with its own cadre of pilots, engineers and full support staff,” says a senior AIEL official pleading anonymity as he is not allowed to speak to the media.

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Published on May 21, 2011
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