India asks airlines to boost engineering capabilities after series of safety incidents

·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: A SpiceJet Boeing 737 passenger aircraft takes off from Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel international airport in Ahmedabad

By Aditi Shah

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India has asked airlines to increase their engineering-related capabilities at all base and transit stations, the junior minister for civil aviation told lawmakers on Monday, after a series of safety-related incidents in recent weeks.

Airlines have also been asked to take "appropriate mitigation action and greater internal surveillance to ensure safety of air operations", V. K. Singh told the parliament.

Indian airlines reported 478 technical snags in the year to June 30, 2022, but dozens of mid-air safety incidents in recent weeks have prompted special spot checks and safety audits by the aviation regulator.

The spotlight is on Indian budget carrier SpiceJet Ltd, which has experienced "a series of occurrences during operation of their aircraft fleet" due to malfunction of components, bad weather or bird strike, Singh said.

On Thursday, a SpiceJet plane was forced to abort its take-off on a Mumbai runway due to a caution alert, in the latest incident involving the loss-making airline which came a day after the regulator cut its capacity by half.

Between May 2 and June 6, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) conducted special safety checks on 300 aircraft, including 62 planes belonging to SpiceJet. The spot checks raised findings that were corrected by the airlines, he said.

The DGCA carried out another round of checks from July 9 to July 13 on just 48 SpiceJet aircraft.

While the checks did not raise "any significant finding or safety violations", as an abundant safety measure the DGCA prevented use of 10 planes until the airline was able to rectify all the reported defects or malfunctions, Singh added.

SpiceJet said on Monday it was confident of addressing any concerns the regulator might have.

The government has urged airlines to "give utmost importance to safety of operations" and special audits and spot checks have been ordered by the DGCA, Singh said.

(Reporting by Aditi Shah; Editing by Mark Potter)

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