Days after several safety lapses were pointed out by the aviation regulator, Indian carriers on Tuesday claimed they were complying with all safety regulations for their flight operations.
While Kingfisher Airlines submitted its response to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Monday, Jet Airways, JetLite, Air India Express and some other carriers said they had also responded to the safety issues raised by the regulator.
A financial surveillance carried out by DGCA found widespread sickness in the sector, saying it was seriously impacting safety of flight operations. It recommended action against the airlines under the Aircraft Rules and Civil Aviation Requirements (CARs).
The audit suggested withdrawal of Kingfisher's flying permit and slashing of operations of AI Express, even as it criticised other carriers like IndiGo, SpiceJet, Jet Airways, GoAir, Alliance Air and JetLite on issues like non-reporting of incidents, lack of pilots, proper and regular training, absence of qualified safety officials and non-compliance of safety audits.
DGCA has also held a meeting with the safety chiefs of almost all non-scheduled operators who fly aircharters on Friday and asked them to abide by all safety norms, official sources said.
Defending their safety performance, IndiGo chief Aditya Ghosh said the regulatory investigation would not hit its expansion plans. IndiGo, which placed orders for 100 Airbus A-320 planes in 2005 and another 150 last year, is inducting an average of one aircraft each month. In December 2011, it had a fleet of 48 planes which would go up to 60 this year-end.
In a statement, Jet Airways and its subsidiary JetLite said they too have submitted 'Action Taken Reports' in line with industry practice.
The DGCA study had castigated IndiGo for "premature engine removals" in a short span of 10 months last year, apart from suppressing information on aircraft incidents which are minor accidents that do not cause major damage to aircraft or lead to injury or fatality.
On the need to increase aircraft fleet, the IndiGo chief said, "Are we joking that we have overcapacity? India's total aircraft fleet now at 400 is one-third or one-fourth less than even the Philippines or Indonesia."
He also claimed that high fares could only be stabilised if there were more planes flying on the Indian sky.
Regarding the safety issues flagged by DGCA, Ghosh maintained that the engine removals were carried out in compliance of Airworthiness Directives of the US Federal Aviation Administration. "There has been no grounding of aircraft" as has happened to some other airlines, he said.
On DGCA's findings that IndiGo's investigation procedures were "improper" and that it had closed probe into several incidents either without regulatory approval, Ghosh said the airline submitted Daily Defect Reports to the Airworthiness department of DGCA and "there is 100 per cent reporting of all maintenance actions".
Claiming to be India's first airline to implement a Safety Management System, it said "we follow our training, monitoring and safety procedures meticulously with no exceptions. Our Technical Dispatch Reliability is 99.91% making it the airline with the least number of cancellations in India."
Regarding shortage of pilot instructors and examiners and backlog of training, Ghosh said "we have consciously 'over hired' pilots, especially highly trained and experienced ones." The airline currently has 50 Training Captains while another 44 were in process of being hired or qualified as trainers.