On Monday, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) held a meeting with senior officials of ground handling agencies and airlines managing their own ground operations to give them a rap on the knuckles. The reason: two months after the ground handlers were issued a comprehensive safety checklist by the regulator, a two-day audit at the Delhi airport revealed serious lapses.
Among the most common observations made for all ground handlers during the audit at Delhi airport on October 9 and 10 were: foreign object debris not being cleared before arrival of an aircraft at bay, equipment being parked inside the safety area, chocks being placed inside safety lines during arrival of aircraft, luggage dollies parked in designated areas did not have brakes, lack of driver permits for specific equipment and lack of emergency safety response drill being conducted.
According to sources present at the meeting — attended by officials from Celebi, Air India-SATS, GoAir, SpiceJet and BWFS (Bird Group) — DGCA chief Arun Kumar asked the ground handlers to immediately address the concerns and said that more frequent spot checks would be done to ensure compliance with the prevalent norms. During the inspection, 10 observations were made in case of BWFS, nine for GoAir, eight for Celebi and three each for SpiceJet and Air India-SATS.
In the backdrop of rising ground incidents at airports across India, including one at Delhi where an aircraft engine was hit by a toilet cart, the DGCA had in August issued a detailed checklist benchmarking safety standards, based on which regular audits of airside activities at aerodromes were to be conducted. “It was observed that since the publication of the August circular, all ground handling agencies have not carried out preparation regarding compliance of the checklist points.
Thus, most ground handling agencies failed to show standard operating procedures, training records of manpower and equipment operators,” a senior DGCA official told The Indian Express. The checklist details the ground facilities checks, which include ground servicing equipment, passenger boarding bridge, condition of apron, lighting, and availability of foreign object debris bins.
It also includes knowledge of personnel pertaining to aircraft turnaround and general safety procedures such as aircraft fuelling, pushback, and towing.
To regulate movement of vehicles on the airside, there would be checks on fitness of vehicles as well as drivers. The knowledge of drivers about aerodrome markings, lighting, terms and phrases used in airside operations, among others, would also be checked. Among others, the checklist includes aircraft turnaround and general safety procedures such as aircraft fuelling, pushback, handling of arrival and departure of a plane, as per the communication. There are more than 100 operational airports in the country.
The DGCA official said the audit has also been conducted at Kochi airport and will be done at three more airports this month, including Mumbai and Lucknow. Over the next few months, inspection of ground handlers at 30 airports will be conducted.