Safety checks on flights operating out of Mumbai — the second busiest in the country — and other airports in western India have dropped drastically because the aviation regulator, Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), does not have enough air safety officers.
DGCA’s regional office has only three air safety officers against the required strength of 18. This office is supposed to monitor safety standards at more than a dozen airports including the city airport — the second busiest in the country. The department, which has 15 vacant posts at the moment, is also meant to scan private airstrips and flying schools in the region.
It’s not just short-staffed but over-worked too. DGCA sources claim that the work pressure is taking a toll on the staff’s health. “Officers have been falling sick with stress related ailments,” said a source.
The issue was brought to the notice of DGCA chief Bharat Bhushan during his visit to the Kalina regional office last month. “Despite repeated circulars sent to the headquarters, the issue has drawn little attention,” said a DGCA official requesting anonymity, as he is not authorised to talk to the media.
The regulator’s chief confirmed the vacancies. “Filling these positions is a time consuming process because air safety is a critical job,” said Bhushan. He added that the regulator had hired 20 fresh graduates as consultants to conduct basic inspections but that only accounted for half the vacancies across the country.
Across all its centres, the DGCA has 82 vacant positions for air safety officers. Out of these about 20 are for full-time employees and another 25 for new recruits to be hired as consultants.