India Creates Air-Safety Council

Discussion in 'Politics & Society' started by RAM, May 29, 2010.

  1. RAM

    RAM The southern Man Senior Member

    Jul 15, 2009
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    NEW DELHI—India is creating a new advisory council to monitor aviation-safety issues and investigate accidents, after an Air India jetliner crash on May 22 that killed 158 people.Air India aircraft parked at the international airport in Mumbai, India, on Wednesday.Aviation-safety experts have been urging India to beef up its policing of airlines and create a new body to evaluate the industry that is separate from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, which currently oversees all aviation regulatory matters in India.

    The Indian airline sector expanded rapidly in recent years, with passenger air traffic more than doubling to 69 million between 2005 and 2009. During the boom years, many airlines were adding six or more aircraft each month. That rapid growth made it harder to uphold safety standards, experts say.

    The initiative to create the council was already underway before the crash on May 22 of an Air India Express Boeing 737-800 jet in the southern city of Mangalore, he said. The council will help investigate that accident. Indian and U.S. authorities are already working to find the reason for the crash after recovering the "black box" with flight data.
    Mohan Ranganathan, a Chennai-based aviation consultant, praised the creation of an aviation-safety council. "The idea is to have people who are entirely dedicated to safety," he said. "They've woken up to the fact that there are a lot of changes required" after the Air India crash

    The council, which will be made up of about 15 to 20 people, will provide input to the DGCA but will operate separately from it.Nasim Zaidi, director general of civil aviation at the Civil Aviation Ministry, said the

    "Aviation Consulting Council" will include officials with expertise in areas such as aeronautics, flight operations and safety."There's wide expertise available in the country," Mr. Zaidi said. He said the government is putting together the aviation council now but declined to specify when it would begin work.The council will provide recommendations to the DGCA in areas such as air navigation, monitoring of flight operations and critical airports—those with features that make safety issues more complex, Mr. Zaidi said. He said one key area will be to "gauge human performance and training of pilots, co-pilots and other crew members."

    Before last weekend's tragedy, the DGCA was taking some steps to address safety concerns. On May 21, the day before the crash, the agency said it planned to begin investigating whether cash-strapped airline operators are compromising on safety to save money. Among other things, DGCA will look at whether training standards have decreased, maintenance of aircraft has been inadequate and whether there have been significant layoffs or turnover in personnel. State-run Air India is suffering heavy losses as it deals with a bloated work force and the fallout of a complex merger with Indian Airlines, another public carrier. Air India's parent company, National Aviation Co. of India Ltd., is expected to post a loss of $1.2 billion for its most recent fiscal year, which ended March 31.

    The company is also dealing with significant labor issues. A strike this week by roughly 1,500 workers caused the airline to cancel at least 76 flights. The Delhi High Court ordered workers Wednesday to cease the strike.

    Air India spokesman Chandra Kumar said the company has fired 58 employees. He said the loss to the carrier from the disruption was about $2 million.Last year, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration considered downgrading India's safety rating, from what it calls category one to category two, a move that would have harmed the international operations of big carriers Air India and Jet Airways. The U.S. agency ultimately decided against the downgrade, after India addressed some key concerns by hiring more safety inspectors.

    Pilot training and schedules, which the new advisory council will study, remain top concerns for many aviation experts, even though there is no evidence to suggest that the pilots in the recent crash were unprepared. The captain, a British expatriate, had 9,000 hours of flying experience and had landed at the Mangalore's Bajpe airport 19 times. Air India has said it believes both the captain and co-pilot were well-rested.
    Still, a key issue for the industry, Mr. Ranganathan said, is the lack of training for aviators on smaller and midsize aircraft, which leads to some co-pilots being put in the cockpits of big jetliners before they have enough experience. "If you're lucky, you might go directly from a Cessna to a 777 Boeing," he said. To actually command a jetliner, Indian pilots need 2,000 hours of flying experience and need to pass exams in subjects such as meteorology and navigation, a process that can take five to six years at major airlines like Air India, pilots say.

    Another concern is that Indian training institutes aren't modern. About 46% of the training aircraft at Indian flight schools are more than 20 years old, according to the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation. The government says it has begun updating a few key flight institutes around the country with better aircraft and flight simulators.

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