The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has ordered the removal of Air India’s (AI) flight safety chief AS Soman after it found that the airline had failed to preserve crucial flight monitoring data.
According to DGCA rules, all airlines are required to mandatorily preserve digital flight data recording (DFDR) of each flight for six months for safety purposes.
The aviation safety regulator had sought the DFDR details from AI following a Hindustan Times report that highlighted an incident on its Bangalore-Hyderabad flight (513) on June 28. The flight reportedly had a narrow escape when the pilot did a “touch and go” after bouncing on the runway.
A passenger, Wing Commander Venkataramana Mantha, had filed a complaint saying the pilot’s decision to take off again had seriously jeopardised flight safety.
“The flaps are down in the landing condition and the speed is absolutely low because you have touched down. We managed to escape as there were hardly 40-45 passengers. Had there been 130-140 passengers, the aircraft would have dropped like a stone from a height of 200 feet and we would have had a crash on the runway,” Mantha, a retired Indian Air Force flight test engineer, told HT.
With no DFDR data available, the regulator could not investigate the incident. Alarmed at the revelation, the DGCA also ordered a surveillance of all Indian carriers to ensure that they were storing the crucial data.
“A show-cause notice had been issued to Soman but his reply was found unsatisfactory. His approval as flight safety head has been withdrawn,” a senior DGCA official said.