Barely hours after its plane crashed at the Mangalore airport on Saturday that left 158 dead, Air India (AI) again threw safety to the winds — at the same airfield where the disaster took place.
<b1>An AI flight that took off from the same airport later in the day was issued an air-worthiness certificate by an engineer not qualified to issue such a certification for an Airbus aircraft, All-India Aircraft Engineers Association (AIAEA) — an association AI engineers — told Hindustan Times.
“Airworthiness norms were not adhered to,” said YV Raju, general secretary, AIAEA. “AI, in complete disregard to all rules and regulations, played with the lives of those on board.”
The number of people on board couldn’t be ascertained.
The matter could snowball into a major controversy with AIAEA saying it would approach the safety regulator, Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), on Monday.
The Bangalore-Delhi flight was re-routed via Mangalore to carry relief personnel. This was an Airbus 320 with CFM engines. AI does not have an engineer qualified on Airbus posted at Mangalore.
The national carrier could have carried one from Bangalore but it didn’t.
After landing, it was realised the plane couldn’t depart from Mangalore without a certificate. So, the top management of the flag carrier got in touch with a private airline to get an engineer to certify the plane.
“This is highly irregular as engineers have clearances only to certify airframe/engine of their fleet,” Raju said. “The engineer of the private airline was not qualified to give a certification for this particular aircraft,” he said.
“Only the AI Quality Control Manger has the authority to give permission to an outside engineer to carry out a check, which wasn’t given in this case.
Also, the QCM would have given permission only after examining the engineer’s qualification and in this case it would have been rejected.”
When the aircraft landed in Delhi, engineers at the airport refused to attend to it because it had become air-unworthy. “The certificate of airworthiness stands invalid when certified by an unqualified person and a higher inspection has to be done to make it airworthy again,” Raju said.”
“We refused to touch the aircraft on Saturday,” Raju added.
“The pilots did a walk around pre-flight inspection at Mangalore airport,” AI said in an email reply to HT. “There was no snag. The engineer from the private carrier was professionally competent to carry out the check.”