Two months after 158 people were killed in the Air India Express crash at Mangalore, India's aviation regulator now wants airlines to enhance their safety standards.
The circular issued last week by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) also states that airlines cannot take disciplinary action against staff for reporting safety lapses. Air India had issued notices to employees for leaking news about safety violations by the company after the Mangalore crash in May.
The DGCA has directed airlines to prepare a comprehensive Safety Management System (SMS) manual as none of the domestic carriers are proactive about safety lapses.
"Until now airlines react to safety concerns only after an unsafe incident. The new rule will enable us to foresee possible hazards," said a DGCA official requesting anonymity.
Derived from the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) annexures, the new rule will come into effect in four stages. Within four months, airlines have to appoint an official in charge of the SMS, submit a report on the gap in their current safety practices and the standards set by the regulator.
In the second stage, they should have documented safety plan in place for training staff and collecting data for risk management. This means that all alerts of possible technical glitches or minor difficulties faced by the crew, which were so far communicated informally, will have to be documented.
By the end of three years, airlines should have a plan to eliminate gaps in operations that can lead to accidents.
"SMS will work only if there is proactive action. And, there should be total transparency in the system," said air safety expert Mohan Ranganathan.
Foreign regulators already have the system in place. For instance, Australian carrier Virgin Blue spotted a fault in the engines widely used in Boeing 737 aircraft and Airbus 320 family and reported it to the aviation regulator. "The regulator promptly alerted other airlines thus preempting a possible mishap," he added.