The chilling incident of a Go Air flight that took off without its nose wheel fixed firmly in place should force all air passengers to look at the safety records of airlines more closely.
A website, Airline-Safety-Records.com gives passengers the safety record of every domestic airline flying in the United States and collects information on not just air accidents, but also other 'incidents' or events that have a bearing on the safety of air operations. To aid consumer make informed choices, the site calculates the number of accidents and incidents per million take-offs during the year and puts out a comparative report card.
In India, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation website gives statistical information on the accidents and fatality for every airline (domestic and Air India), the latest on its website being for the year 2006, but it does not report 'incidents'. DGCA also gives information on the fleet of every airline, including their date of manufacture and the engine.
By expanding its information, the DGCA can not only fulfil the consumers' right to information , but also bring in transparency and accountability on safety issues. First, in safety statistics, it should include 'incidents' following which accidents were averted, but came close to a major mishap. This would include bird hits, maintenance failures, mechanical snags and , near-misses in the sky, And for both accidents and incidents, the website should give reports of inquiries held. The details would help a consumer know whether it was negligence or something else that caused the accident or incident in question.
Similarly, there should be a regular audit on aircraft maintenance by different airlines and the results of the audit should also be publicised on the Internet. This is particularly important in the context of reports of airline industry being hit by global financial crisis. In the US, there are already concerns over the cash-strapped airline industry cutting costs on maintenance and thereby safety. So we need to take all precautions to ensure passenger safety.