Captain Mohan Ranganathan, an aviation safety consultant with 35 years of flying experience tells us that India needs to focus more on air safety and training.
The Civil Aviation Ministry claims preliminary feedback from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) suggests it was ‘satisfied’ with the regulatory mechanism. What has the Government done since the last audit to get a positive feedback?
The ICAO audit team never gives an opinion. They submit their findings to the department in Montreal who study them and then give their opinion. Even in 2012, the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) released a press statement, soon after the audit, that the team found India above world standards. When the final report came out, India was in the list of 13 nations found wanting.
As a veteran pilot and safety consultant, how do you view Indian aviation’s track record with safety standards? What are the reforms India needs to undertake?
Indian safety standards are abysmally low. We do not have enough ‘qualified’ specialists in Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) or Airports Authority of India (AAI). A large majority hold their positions either because of their caste or connections. India has to move from the ‘cover-up mode’ to the ‘ proactive safety mode’. You need to ensure that the surveillance safety audits are not a box ticking exercise but a realistic finding and ensure a proper follow-up on actions taken. Right now, DGCA and AAI are moving at a tangent, both claiming the safety standards are better than the world, but in reality, both are wrong.
A record number of 422 air-safety violations were detected in 2016 against 275 in 2015. Is DGCA well equipped and well resourced to handle the safety issues?
Right from the ICAO Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme in 2006, the findings have pointed towards a shortage of qualified man power.
Every time, they are assured that the numbers will be filled up as soon as possible. Eleven years on, the malaise continues. Accidents are covered up as incidents and investigation standards are really low.
The Flight Standards Directorate of DGCA is a joke and the lowering of standards is primarily due to this.
How badly does India need a Civil Aviation Authority (CAA)? Why has this reform on regulatory mechanism been put on the backburner?
India needs an independent CAA. And not just today; it has been missing one for the past 20 years. The MoCA controls all aspects of aviation in India without having a single qualified person. This scenario cannot continue.
India is on a modernisation spree of its aviation sector, especially building new airports. What are the challenges on safety issues?
Indian aviation is a perfect example of ‘never judge a book by its cover’. Attractive terminal buildings and a number of airports do not make for a safe system. We have a severe shortage of qualified pilots, engineers, air traffic controllers and personnel. Merely filling the vacancies without proper training and qualification does not make it a safe system. First, employ, train and provide experience to qualified personnel before thinking of expansion.
Is there enough focus on building infrastructure to handle the growing capacity and training/skilling manpower to handle growing challenges?
No. Focus is mainly on popular statements and how things are bright.