The government is planning to set up a transportation safety board to investigate air accidents and incidents along with shipping and highway accidents. A proposal for an independent investigative body has been sent by the Civil Aviation Ministry to the Cabinet Secretariat and is under review.
At present, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) investigates all incidents related to the aviation sector, including mishaps on ground, near misses and plane crashes. “The DGCA is the aviation regulator and also investigates such incidents and there is of course a conflict of interest. We wanted to separate the investigative role of DGCA and wanted an unbiased separate body,” said a senior ministry official.
The Ministry also wants the body to investigate shipping and roadway accidents. “At least 70 per cent of all accidents involve human error and it holds true for aviation, shipping and road accidents. We want a ‘lean’ investigative body, which would have experts from all these fields,” the official said.
The body would be on the lines of United States National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). The NTSB is an independent US Federal Government agency that looks after transportation safety in the aviation, highway, marine, pipeline and railroad. It investigates all accidents and also issues safety guidelines. In fact, most western countries have switched over to such independent transportation safety boards.
“We had even sent a proposal to the Cabinet Secretariat but it didn’t materialise,” the official said.
With the unprecedented boom in India’s domestic aviation industry, air traffic movement has gone up considerably and so has the number of accidents and air misses. According to DGCA figures, there are more than two incidents of air miss in the Indian skies every month.
“The DGCA is reeling under a sever manpower crunch and it takes a very long time for each case to be investigated. A separate agency would take a lot of pressure off DGCA,” a DGCA source said.