Following rising “air safety incidents” caused by technical faults on SpiceJet flights, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) is likely to summon the carrier’s officials to flag its concern, top government officials told The Indian Express. With two more incidents on Tuesday, the low-cost airline’s tally touched six in the last two months.
“We are going to call them (SpiceJet representatives) shortly to set things right,” said a senior DGCA official.
On Tuesday, SpiceJet’s Delhi-Dubai flight had to be diverted to Karachi after the pilots noticed unusual fuel reduction in one of the fuel tanks of the plane. It was found that an indicator light was malfunctioning. In another incident, SpiceJet’s Kandla-Mumbai flight made a priority landing in Mumbai after the outer pane of its windshield cracked at 23,000 feet.
The DGCA had expressed concern about SpiceJet’s operations earlier as well. In May, the safety regulator had ordered an inspection of the airline’s entire fleet after one of its planes encountered severe turbulence and suffered damage, but was still allowed by the maintenance crew to take an onward flight.
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A few days after the DGCA’s order, senior SpiceJet executives, including its promoter Ajay Singh, met DGCA chief Arun Kumar. According to sources, the SpiceJet team was told not to compromise on air safety. “SpiceJet was told that they may choose to cut their costs in any avenue, but they should not compromise on any aspect involving air safety,” said a source.
Responding to queries sent by The Indian Express, a SpiceJet spokesperson said: “Regular meetings between the regulator and airlines happen in the normal course. SpiceJet is an IATA-IOSA certified airline. SpiceJet successfully completed the meticulous audit programme for recertification in October 2021. We have been regularly audited by DGCA. All flights of SpiceJet are conducted in compliance with the applicable regulations of the DGCA… Safety of our passengers, crew and aircraft is paramount to SpiceJet”.
While the DGCA is investigating all these incidents, an email query sent to the Ministry of Civil Aviation did not elicit a response.
On Tuesday, pilots of the Delhi-Dubai flight with 150 people on board noticed unusual fuel reduction in one of the plane’s fuel tanks, following which they decided to divert the plane to the nearest airport. The Boeing 737 Max plane was cruising at 36,000 feet in Pakistani airspace when the glitch was observed, said a source, adding that the pilots decided to land in Karachi as there was 80-90 minutes of flight time left for Dubai.
In the second incident, on a Bombardier Q400 Dash 8 plane, the Kandla-Mumbai flight made a priority landing at Mumbai due to a crack in the outer pane of its windshield.
On Saturday, another Q400 Dash 8 turboprop aircraft operated by the airline made an emergency landing in Delhi. In this case, the Jabalpur-bound plane turned back to Delhi after smoke was observed in the cabin.
On June 19, two SpiceJet incidents were reported: one involved a bird hit on a Boeing 737 Patna-Delhi flight, in which the pilots landed safely at Patna after an engine shut down; the second, involving another Q400 Dash 8 plane from Delhi to Jabalpur, had to make an emergency landing in Delhi after cabin pressure did not build up in line with the altitude gain.
On May 4, a SpiceJet-operated Boeing 737 MAX plane from Chennai to Durgapur turned back after one of its engines had to be shut down mid-air due to an oil filter warning. Just days before this incident, a SpiceJet Boeing 737 aircraft from Mumbai to Durgapur flew into severe turbulence shortly before landing — several passengers were injured in that incident.
According to sources, DGCA inspectors conducted 136 spot checks of 62 SpiceJet planes between May 2 and May 20, in addition to inspecting planes of other airlines as well. During the spot checks, the inspectors reportedly found several deficiencies with the aircraft’s seats, windows, in addition to mechanical defects.
In April, the airline was also flagged by the regulator for deciding to continue training its pilots at a Boeing 737 Max simulator facility near Delhi despite knowing that the equipment there was faulty. The DGCA barred 90 pilots of the airline from flying the aircraft model till they re-trained on a compliant simulator.
For the nine-month period ended December 31, 2021, SpiceJet reported a consolidated net loss of Rs 1,259.21 crore, compared to Rs 1,028.19 crore net loss for the 12-month period ended March 31, 2021. The company is yet to declare its results for the quarter-ended March 31, 2022.
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