Aviation safety of India could be downgraded by US if urgent steps not taken: Experts

Mail Today Bureau   New Delhi     Last Updated: August 13, 2012  | 08:55 IST

The lives of passengers were put at risk on at least 22 occasions since June 2011 in "near miss" incidents of aircraft coming too close to each other, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has revealed in response to an Right to Information query.

The data show that during the 10-month period between June 2011 and April 2012, two near-miss incidents were being reported every month from the country's air space on an average.

According to the DGCA data, of the 22 incidents, as many as 11 cases were reported from the Chennai flight information region alone. Delhi with five such incidents and Mumbai with four remained at second and third places. On five occasions, one or both aircraft involved were those of IndiGo airlines and SpiceJet.

According to DGCA figures, on six occasions, the near-miss incidents involved international airlines. On two occasions, an Indian Air Force aircraft was involved.

A near-miss could have been caused by many factors like lack of coordination between the air traffic controller and the pilot, one or both of whom could be working under extreme stress, the DGCA has stated.

In fact, pilots of loss-making national carrier Air India during the nearly two-month-long agitation had warned in June that they could not maintain the truncated global flight schedule as they were overstressed and did not want to jeopardise lives of passengers and crew.

The near-miss incidents can also be attributed to the burgeoning number of flights operating at major airports, caused by the induction of numerous low-cost airlines.

For example, on an average day, the Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport in Delhi handles over 700 flights which carry more than 62,000 passengers. In contrast, the IGI Airport handled only 77 flights a day in 2002-03.

In the last two years alone, domestic traffic has grown by 36 per cent and international by 19 per cent. A major near-miss accident was averted on March 22 when three Jet Airways aircraft with 330 passengers on board almost collided at the Mumbai airport after the air traffic control (ATC) cleared the Mumbai-Udaipur flight for take-off with one of the aircraft that had arrived from Bhuj still on the runway.

The figures have been disclosed at a time when the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is set to do a safety audit of the DGCA to examine whether it is effective enough to ensure safe flying in and over India.

Such ICAO reports are made public in all countries which subsequently decide whether the inspected country is safe to fly.

Industry experts are of the view that India could face the possibility of downgrading of its aviation safety by the US if it does not take urgent measures. In 2009, the US Federal Aviation Administration had threatened to downgrade India to Category-II status.

Courtesy: Mail Today 

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