DGCA issues show-cause notice to SpiceJet

SpiceJet records series of safety-related incidents

Business

July 6, 2022

/ By / New Delhi

DGCA issues show-cause notice to SpiceJet

SpiceJet has been in the news for repeated safety-related incidents

After a series of safety-related incidents in the last few days, the aviation regular DGCA issues show-cause notice to low-cost carrier SpiceJet over the incidents and asking the airline to clarify the situation. On Tuesday, two SpiceJet flights had to go in for an emergency landing, including a Delhi-Dubai flight that had to land at Karachi due to suspected fuel leak. Aviation experts accuse the debt-laden and cash strapped airline of cutting the corners in maintenance and crew training.

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The Directorate General of Civil Aviation, the aviation regulator of India, has issued a show-cause notice to SpiceJet asking the low-cost airline about the series of safety-related and operational incidents that have occurred with the airline’s operations over the past few weeks.

‘‘Whereas, the reported incidents on aircraft operated by M/s Spicejet Ltd. from 1st April, 2022 till date (attached as Annexure-A) have been reviewed and it has been

observed that at number of occasions, the aircraft either turned back to its originating station or continued landing to the destination with degraded safety margins,’’ says DGCA in the notice.

In the harshly worded notice, the regulator says, ‘‘Whereas, the review transpires that poor internal safety oversight and inadequate maintenance actions (as most of the incidents are related to either component failure or system related failure) has resulted in degradation of the safety margins,’’ says the regulator.

The DGCA also raised the issue of poor financial situation of the airline and how it may have impacted the airline’s safety and maintenance. ‘‘Financial assessment carried out by DGCA in September, 2021 has also revealed that airline is operating on Cash & Carry and suppliers/approved vendors are not being paid on regular basis leading to shortage of spares and frequent invoking of minimum equipment list or MELS,’’ says the regulator.

‘‘From the above it may be deduced that M/s Spicejet Ltd. has failed to establish a safe, efficient and reliable air services under terms of Rule 134 and Schedule XI of the Aircraft Rules, 1937 and therefore, the Accountable Manager of M/s Spicejet Ltd., is hereby called upon to Show Cause within 3 weeks of receipt of this Notice as to why action should not be taken against the airline. In case no reply is received within the stipulated period, the matter will be proceeded ex-parte,’’ says DGCA in the notice.

In the latest incident, China-bound SpiceJet cargo plane returned to Kolkata on Tuesday due to faulty weather radar. The SpiceJet freighter aircraft, a Boeing 737, was scheduled to operate from Kolkata to Chongquing, but after the takeoff the weather radar was found to be malfunctioning and hence the pilot-in-command decided to return to Kolkata.

The DGCA notice is dated July 5, the day when two SpiceJet airplanes had to go in for emergency landing due to technical glitches, having a bearing on the safety of the aircraft and the passengers.

SpiceJet SG-11 flight, a Boeing 737 Max, which was travelling from Delhi to Dubai, had to make an emergency landing in Karachi in Pakistan as pilots suspected fuel leak from the aircraft. On the same day, SG3324 flight, a Bombardier Q400 flying from Kandla to Mumbai had to make an emergency landing in Mumbai after its cockpit windshield cracked. SpiceJet said that the P2 side windshield outer pane of the aircraft cracked.

The airline has experienced various similar incidents in the past three months. On July 2, a SpiceJet flight headed for Jabalpur made an emergency landing in the Delhi airport after smoke was detected in the cabin when it was flying at a height of about 1524 m. On June 19, there were two SpiceJet incidents reported. One involved a bird strike on a Boeing 737 plane from Patna to Delhi, in which the pilots safely returned to Patna after an engine shut down, and the other involved a Bombardier Q400 flight from Delhi to Jabalpur that had to make an emergency landing in Delhi because cabin pressure did not increase in accordance with the plane’s gain in altitude.

Before that, on May 4, another SpiceJet-operated Boeing 737 MAX plane from Chennai to Durgapur had to do an air turn back after one of its engines had to be shut down in the middle of the flight due to an oil filter warning. Only a few days prior to that, another SpiceJet Boeing 737 travelling from Mumbai to Durgapur encountered strong turbulence just before landing, badly injuring 17 passengers.

There have been many safety violation incidents one after another in past 3 months. The repeated occurrence of safety-related incidents has put off many fliers. Nupur Sinha, a technology executive and a regular flier on board SpiceJet is one such passenger. “Now, I wouldn’t prefer SpiceJet for travelling purposes until and unless there is an urgency. Rather, my priority would be either Vistara or Indigo. But, economically, I will choose Indigo as it is cheaper than Vistara,” Sinha tells Media India Group.

The social media has also been full of criticism of SpiceJet by fliers and aviation experts alike, asking for the airline to be grounded to keep the fliers and crew safe.

“I travelled in 2009 in SpiceJet and it was very good at that time. But, then the second time when I travelled, it was not that good because I felt that the quality of service had declined. Even my relatives have travelled with SpiceJet in domestic flights over last couple of months and they are not satisfied with the services at all. Their prices have also increased like it is known for its affordability but then I don’t think that they are providing the services as per the money they are charging,” says Kusum, another flier.

Cutting corners in cash crunch

SpiceJet has been facing severe cash crunch for the past three years and has been sued by creditors in India and overseas, including its main maintenance agency SR Technics for failure to pay bills. Observers believe this may have led the airline to cut corners on maintenance and crew training.

On June 30, 2022, SpiceJet was fined INR 1 million by the DGCA for training the 737 Max pilots on a defective simulator. As a result, 90 SpiceJet pilots were prohibited from operating B737 Max aircraft by the DGCA. The regulator had mandated that the pilots be retrained. The agency stated that SpiceJet’s training “may have adversely influenced flight safety and was invalidated.” The stick shaker of the simulator was found to be broken during a check by the DGCA monitoring crew. A stick shaker is a device that rapidly vibrates while an aircraft stalls and is unable to lift itself.

In June 2022, DGCA said it had audited 30 out of a total of 32 flying training organisations (FTOs) in India since March 2021 and discovered that they were breaking many safety laws. The regulator said that they were falling short in a number of safety-related areas, from serious violations like fuel leaking into the fuselage to operating without jackets or breathing apparatus and problems like crew operating while intoxicated to lacking an adequate number of trainers.

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