The country’s aviation regulator has launched a major crackdown on aircraft maintenance engineers (AME) and institutes training these professionals after surprise inspections found that many had severely compromised on aircraft safety.
Since 2005 as many as 23 aircraft maintenance engineers —three this year — have been stripped off the privileges of their licenses as checks found them negligent towards several critical safety parameters.
“At times we have observed that there have been instances of serious lapses which could have led to accidents and in some cases engineers have signed the aircraft inspection schedules without even doing a physical audit of the plane,” said K Gohain, director general, Civil Aviation.
A aviation ministry official said the directorate general of civil aviation (DGCA) has set targets for each of its regional offices to carry out spot and surprise checks on how the licensed engineers were certifying aircraft safety before allowing them to get airborne.
These engineers are mandated to carry out safety checks and audits of every technical aspect before an aircraft takes off.
There are 56 DGCA-approved schools that train AMEs with the basic skills. An AME graduating from such a school has to go through a three-stage test called basic aircraft maintenance course (BAMC) conducted by the regulator before they are eligible to certify aircraft for flying.
It has been found that some schools are ill-equipped to offer aircraft maintenance training and students passing out from these schools are not employable as their knowledge or skill-set is not adequate.
“People, who do not understand safety are clearing aircraft for take off,” said an executive of a private air carrier.
In one surprise check the regulator found that even the basic requirement of tyre pressure check was not carried out, but was signed for flying.
Recently, in a leading domestic airline, the engineer on duty cleared an aircraft for flying and signed that all the ‘two’ sets of tyres were checked for pressure, whereas the aircraft actually had four sets of tyres.
“It has now been made mandatory for the schools to have at least one aircraft on which basic training can be imparted,” the official said.
Some institutes have been asked to shift or close shop. These courses cost Rs 75,000 to Rs 150,000 per month, with the duration of each course being three years.
DGCA is now planning to introduce an online examination mode modelled on the lines of one conducted by the Federal Aviation Authority of the US.