The aviation regulator on Friday asked SpiceJet Airlines to suspend the person in charge of scanning cargo in connection with the fire that broke out in the cargo hold of a Mumbai-Hyderabad flight on May 27.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) team probing the safety lapse said that RK Singh, the cargo scanner who was on duty at the time of the incident, failed to spot a parcel containing inflammable life-saving equipment that caught fire soon after the flight took off.
"He [Singh] should have noticed the parcel before it was loaded in the aircraft. It is a major safety blunder," said a DGCA official, requesting anonymity.
On June 3, the HT reported that the parcel that caught fire was not on the list of cargo items to be carried by the airline. Also, the goods contained aerosols and lithium batteries, which should be packed separately according to the DGCA's dangerous goods manual.
The slip-up could have resulted in a serious air disaster. It was averted because the pilot spotted the fire warning sign and activated the fire extinguisher in the cargo hold. He then made an urgent call to the Mumbai air traffic control tower asking permission to make an emergency landing. The aircraft with 140 passengers landed safely, but the flight was delayed for nine hours.
The regulator is now trying to identify the person who allegedly slipped in the unlisted parcel. "We have asked the Mumbai International Airport Limited for some documents," added the DGCA official. The regulator is also likely to revise its guidelines on cargo management in passenger flights to avoid such incidents.
The airline spokesperson refused to comment stating that the case is under investigation.