In a major safety lapse, the parcel that caught fire in the cargo hold of a Mumbai-Hyderabad SpiceJet flight on May 27 was not listed in the flight’s cargo list.
The aviation regulator’s preliminary investigation into the incident that endangered the lives of 140 passengers has revealed that the parcel had life-saving equipment, which contained aerosols and lithium batteries.
Parcels with such inflammable substances are supposed to be packed separately as per the Directorate General of Civil Aviation’s (DGCA) dangerous goods management manual. Also, pilots operating flights with such goods require a dangerous goods licence.
“It is a major safety and security lapse. The airline is unable to explain how the parcel reached the aircraft’s belly,” said a senior DGCA official requesting anonymity, as he is not authorised to talk to the media.
The DGCA is now probing whether the Spicejet ground staff loaded the “undeclared” parcel by mistake or someone slipped it in without informing the airline.
“It could also be an organised racket to make some quick money by illegally ferrying parcels,” added the DGCA official.
The SpiceJet spokesperson did not respond to the Hindustan Times’ calls or the query sent to the airline via email. Sources said that the regulator is likely to temporarily suspend some airline officials.
On the day of the incident, batteries in the life-saving equipment had caught fire, which soon engulfed at least six pieces of baggage.
The pilot was notified about the fire and he activated the fire extinguisher. He took the air traffic control office’s permission to make an emergency landing and the flight returned to Mumbai 30 minutes after take-off. Passengers landed safely but the flight was delayed by nine hours.
Sources added that the regulator is likely to revise the guidelines for cargo management in passenger flights to avoid such incidents from recurring.