Air India (AI) Express has appointed Captain Pawan Arora as its new chief operating officer (COO) despite his earlier removal from key flight safety posts.
Arora had been removed from the position of test pilot by the DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation) as the appointment was found to be irregular. His subsequent appointment as a flight operations inspector (FOI) was also scrapped by the aviation sector regulator.
The DGCA had also revoked his appointment as an A320 instructor with a private airline and as a ground instructor. Arora has been appointed COO of the cash-strapped airline for a salary of R1.2 crore plus perks.
Captain Mohan Ranganathan, an aviation expert and member of the government-appointed Operations Group of the Civil Aviation Safety Advisory Council (CASAC), had warned AI against appointing Arora.
In a letter to Arvind Jadhav, CMD, AI, Ranganathan had written, “A person with questionable integrity should not be considered for such an important post and is not conducive to safety of an airline, which is just recovering from a major fatal crash.”
“Arora’s induction as a test pilot with the DGCA was found to be irregular and the issue was taken up with the DGCA,” Ranganathan told HT. An inquiry established that the ministry hadn’t sanctioned the post, following which the DGCA removed him, he said.
“His appointment as an FOI was against the rules, which required one to be an examiner to be an FOI. The DGCA removed his name from the list of FOI,” Ranganathan said.
Arora did not reply to an email query from HT sent on October 20. AI replied that Arora had “resigned voluntarily” as FOI. However, top DGCA officials confirmed to HT that Arora was removed from the post.
On his being dropped as instructor, AI said, “Change of operator leads to names being removed from the list.” However, as per records, Arora’s name had been dropped as instructor in the August 31 DGCA list while he joined AI only last week.