Reminding Indian air carriers not to take a 'short-cut' on safety issues, DGCA on Friday warned Kingfisher Airlines and Air India Express of stringent action if they did not come out with a "specific and realistic" time-table to meet all safety requirements.
Showing urgency on the safety issue, the country's aviation regulator has given time till Monday to both Vijay Mallya-owned private airline and Air India's low budget air carrier to come up with a firm time-line to fulfill the required safety parameters.
"We have told Kingfisher to come up with a firm time-line by Monday. A similar letter has also been sent to the (Air India's low-cost arm) Air India Express," DGCA chief EK Bharat Bhushan said in New Delhi on Friday.
Kingfisher was asked to submit plans on how it would restore its flight schedules, curtailed since November, and proposals on its recapitalisation.
The decision followed a financial surveillance by the irectorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) which found widespread sickness in the sector seriously impacting safety issues.
Following the report, DGCA issued a stern warning to all carriers, including these two, to take immediate rectificatory measures to resolve the lapses or face action.
"We have asked them to come up with specific and realistic time-table (to meet all safety requirements). We will be watching it closely," Bhushan said.
Non-compliance would invite stringent action, he said, adding "we have various options to take against them", including the final step of cancellation of their crucial flying permit.
Apart from cancellation of permits, the surveillance report recommended steps like curtailing of flight schedules and asking the carriers to fly a lesser number of aircraft which they can properly maintain.
As many as 157 slots of Kingfisher were withdrawn by DGCA as it was not operating them, with 21 out of the 60 aircraft fleet remaining grounded, sources said.
Maintaining that Kingfisher had urged the regulator to take action against 24 pilots for quitting without adhering to the six-month notice period, sources said this proposal was rejected by DGCA as salaries were not being paid to them, and therefore, service rules could not be applied to them.
With recommendations that "reasonable case" existed for withdrawal of Kingfisher's permit, the DGCA chief yesterday maintained that there was "no cause for panic" and the situation has certainly not come to that pass where airlines' permits are withdrawn.
He had also observed that all Indian airlines were going through a critical patch but "it is our duty to ensure that nobody takes the short-cut on the safety front."
The audit, which was carried out over three to four months, identified safety issues like lack of proper maintenance of aircraft, shortage of commanders, pilots and cabin crew, lack of adequate training, scarcity of aircraft engines and components and crucial spares.
Other safety issues related to backlog in flight crew training, Flight Operations Quality Assurance monitoring and delay in disbursement of salaries.
On Kingfisher, the report said "a reasonable case exists for withdrawal of their (Kingfisher's) airline operator permit as their financial stress is likely to impinge on safety."
Regarding AI Express, it said "a prima facie case exists for restricting their operations in view of safety issues." Concern was also expressed about certain crucial safety issues which remained pending and shortage of training captains.
This was the first time that such a financial audit was carried out by DGCA after the civil aviation ministry's safety advisory council recommended it.