Air India demotes safety chief over duty lapse

  • Soubhik Mitra, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Aug 10, 2015 17:01 IST

About a week after the aviation safety regulator asked Air India (AI) to sack its air safety chief, the national carrier issued marching orders on Saturday. According to an office order issued by the chairman and managing director, Rohit Nandan on August 7, Captain AS Soman, the former executive director of air safety would now operate as a normal pilot.

“In pursuance of DGCA order issued on July 31, Capt. As Soman, executive director ceases to be chief of flight safety with immediate effect till further orders,” read the order a copy of which is available with HT.

With the sacking, the senior pilot would stop enjoying the dispensation of flying for only 10 hours in a month, the order added. Air India pilots are supposed to operate flights up to 80 hours in a month. The AI spokesperson did not respond to HT’s calls and an email sent on the matter.

On July 31, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had asked AI to relieve the senior pilot from the key position after the department headed by him had botched evidence crucial for a safety probe.

The DGCA had rapped the senior AI executive for failing to preserve crucial flight monitoring data. According to DGCA rules, it is compulsory for all airlines to preserve digital flight data recording (DFDR) of each flight for six months for safety purposes.

But when the regulator’s office sought the DFDR for a Bangalore-Hyderabad flight (AI 513) operated on June 28, the airline failed to submit the records.

The DGCA had sought the records following a complaint by retired Indian Air Force flight test engineer who was travelling on board the flight. Wing Commander, Venkatramana Mantha had complained that passengers on board the flight had a narrow escape as the pilot made a hard landing with a thud. According to his complaint to the DGCA no injury was reported, as the aircraft was half empty.

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