Member of The Month JANUARY 2010
- Aug 14, 2009
Anantha Krishnan M.
India's Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Thursday blamed a poorly devised engine relight procedure for the crash last year of the Indian 14-seater Saras airliner, slamming the aircraft designers *— the National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL) — and its flight test unit, the Indian Air Force's elite Aircraft System and Testing Establishment (ASTE).
The Saras PT-2 VT-XRM crashed at Seshagirihalli near Bangalore during a test flight on March 6, 2009, claiming the lives of two pilots and a fight test engineer.
Aviation Week reviewed the 75-page DGCA findings and found many startling revelations.
Ruling out poor maintenance, inclement weather, fitness of pilots and pre-impact fire as possibilities, the DGCA report said, there is no effective and continuous monitoring of test program by the NAL-ASTE (IAF) Management Committee and no records of monitoring are available. NAL also subcontracted a private agency named Aircraft Design and Engineering Service Ltd., Bangalore, and the work schedule indicates almost all the design and development work of the Saras project is being done by the contractor, which also includes flight testing analysis. This is not in line with DGCA approval given to the contractor that of only giving design and engineering support to the parts and appliances, the report said.
The report said that the DGCA team did not find any effective pre-flight briefing for the crew or any records available to indicate the same on the day of accident. There is no contingency plan for unexpected emergencies like accidents, missing aircraft and loss of communication. NAL does not not periodically monitor cockpit voice recorder (CVR) and digital flight data recorder (DFDR) data.
The crash aircraft was fitted with a certified Pratt & Whitney engine. However, the MT propeller is still in the process of certification, and the report said that NAL did not declare the propeller fit upon receipt of the prop and prior to use on the aircraft.
In addition to the 11-point safety recommendations, the probe came out with the following possible causes of the crash. The primary focus is an incorrect relight procedure devised by the designer and adopted by the crew at insufficient height, leading to rapid loss of altitude and abnormal behavior of the aircraft. DGCA cited as contributory factors: a) lack of crew coordination and cockpit procedures; b) handling of the controls; c) non-aborting of flight by the crew in coordination with the flight test-director after failure of first relight attempt, and; d) devising engine relight procedures by NAL without consulting the propeller manufacturer.
The DGCA was also critical of NAL for flying the aircraft on all five days of Aero India-2009, without taking the mandatory DGCA permission.
The Director-General, Dr Nasim Zaidi, told Aviation Week that his team has probed all possible angles of the crash. "Our job is done and we have given our word on the crash. There are many findings and recommendations for NAL and ASTE to look into. After the mandatory period, we will see what action has been taken based on our report," he said.
NAL director Dr A.R. Upadhya told Avation Week that his team would look into the recommendations with clarity, once he gets hold of it. "I have not seen the report yet," Dr Upadhya said. "In the meantime, we have formed a committee to look into all our civil aircraft programs. We will study the mandatory and desirable points in the DGCA report and move forward."