SpiceJet to operate 50% of approved flights for 8 weeks following snags: DGCA
The order comes after SpiceJet planes were involved in at least eight technical malfunction incidents in the 18-day period starting June 19.
SpiceJet will operate a maximum of 50 per cent of its flights, which were approved for the summer schedule, for a period of eight weeks, aviation regulator DGCA on Wednesday ordered.
"In view of the findings of various spot checks, inspections and the reply to the show cause notice submitted by SpiceJet, for continued sustenance of safe and reliable transport service, the number of departures of SpiceJet are hereby restricted to 50 per cent of the number of departures approved under summer schedule 2022 for a period of 8 weeks," the aviation regulator's order said.
The order comes after SpiceJet planes were involved in at least eight technical malfunction incidents in the 18-day period starting June 19, following which the DGCA had on July 6 issued a show-cause notice to the airline, stating that "poor internal safety oversight" and "inadequate maintenance actions" have resulted in degradation of safety margins.
Just three days after issuing the notice, the regulator started conducting spot checks on SpiceJet planes. The spot checks were completed on July 13.
Minister of state for civil aviation VK Singh recently told the Rajya Sabha the DGCA conducted 53 spot checks on 48 SpiceJet aircraft between July 9 and July 13 and it did not find any major safety violations.
"However, as a safety measure, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) ordered SpiceJet to use certain identified aircraft (10) for operations only after confirming to the regulator that all reported defects/malfunctions are rectified," Singh said.
"A total of 53 spot checks were carried out on 48 aircraft which did not find any major significant finding or safety violation," he mentioned.
The DGCA's safety oversight process involves series of successive follow-up steps which includes communication of observations or findings to the airlines for taking corrective action, review of corrective action taken by the airlines for taking a decision, and initiating enforcement action consisting of warning, suspension, cancellation or imposition of financial penalty to the person or the airline involved, he noted.
In its notice to SpiceJet on July 6, the regulator had said the airline has failed to “establish safe, efficient and reliable air services” under the Aircraft Rules, 1937.
“The review (of the incidents) transpires that poor internal safety oversight and inadequate maintenance actions (as most of the incidents were related to either component failure or system-related failure) have resulted in degradation of the safety margins,” the notice added.
The regulator gave the airline three weeks to respond to the notice.
On July 5, a SpiceJet freighter aircraft, which was heading to Chongqing in China, returned to Kolkata as the pilots realised after the take-off that its weather radar was not working.
On July 5, the airline’s Delhi-Dubai flight was diverted to Karachi due to a malfunctioning fuel indicator. Its Kandla-Mumbai flight did priority landing in Maharashtra’s capital city after cracks developed on its windshield mid-air.
On July 2, a SpiceJet flight heading to Jabalpur returned to Delhi after the crew members observed smoke in the cabin at an altitude of around 5,000 feet.
Fuselage door warnings lit up on two separate SpiceJet planes while taking off on June 24 and June 25, forcing the aircraft to abandon their journeys and return.
On June 19, an engine on the carrier’s Delhi-bound aircraft carrying 185 passengers caught fire soon after it took off from the Patna airport and the plane made an emergency landing minutes later. The engine malfunctioned because of a bird hit.
In another incident on June 19, a SpiceJet flight for Jabalpur had to return to Delhi due to cabin pressurisation issues.
Planes of other airlines have also been involved in technical malfunction incidents during the last 45 days.
The DGCA had on July 19 started a 2-month-long special audit of all Indian carriers after its spot checks earlier this month found that insufficient and unqualified engineering personnel are certifying carriers' planes before their departure, officials said.
(With inputs from agencies)