In a strange turn of events, within days of the flight safety wing of Air India (AI) Express initiating a probe against two of its top officials -chief of operations and training - the airline's flight safety chief, Captain AK Sharma, has quit from his post.
Sources said Sharma's team was allegedly under pressure not to carry out the investigation against the two, who are both senior captains and happen to be brothers. Sharma's resignation could snowball into a major controversy for the carrier, which was involved in the Mangalore crash that killed more than 150 people last year.
The flight safety department had received a complaint against the two captains, which alleged that to become an instructor, one of the two "used fraudulent means and forged documents" in collusion with his brother and a flight inspector of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) in 2008.
"DGCA regulation prohibits blood relatives doing checks or be present during checks of their kin," the complaint said. A probe was initiated last week and the flight safety department had sought all documents relating to the case.
Sources said Sharma, who was heading the flight safety department since 2006, was upset after being accused of being "unprofessional" and "failing to maintain decorum in discharge of official duties" by the airline management soon after his team began the probe.
"I strongly deny the allegations that he (Sharma) has raised against the management," S Chandrakumar, COO, AI Express said. "The factual position is that we invited applications from type-rated Boeing 737-800 NG Captains for filling up the position of chief of flight safety. Sharma knows he doesn't qualify for the post and was looking for an excuse to leave," he said.
"The number of incidents and accidents that AI Express has had in recent times points to a major failure in safety quality assurance programme," Captain Mohan Ranganathan, member of a panel on aviation safety said.