The Civil Aviation Ministry (CAA) has denied permission to the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) to probe a suspected engine fire in an Airbus 320Neo aircraft of GoAir in February, and instead asked the Directorate General of Civil Aviation to investigate the incident in a decision that raised eyebrows.
The bureau, aviation industry experts said, is an agency created specifically to investigate serious incidents and accidents and should have been given the mandate to probe the incident that had put the lives of 193 people on board the airliner at risk. The plane, which had taken off from Delhi, returned to the airport safely after some eyewitnesses reported fire in one of its engines.
Civil aviation secretary RN Choubey, however, said there was no fire and that it was an engine failure. “AAIB has ordered investigation citing engine fire. However, there was no engine fire which was confirmed by GoAir as well as (engine maker) P&W (Pratt & Whitney). Accordingly, MoCA (aviation ministry) took a conscious decision and the DGCA was asked to conduct the investigation,” Choubey said. Senior AAIB officials said they had had sought permission from the government to investigate soon after the incident.
“We had written to the ministry seeking permission to investigate, as it was a serious incident where one engine of the aircraft caught fire. But the ministry viewed it differently. They have the authority to decide on the agency that will investigate into the case,” said an AAIB official, who did not want to be named. The incident occurred on February 8, 2017, and the bureau wrote to the ministry two days later.
“The GoAir accident, which was an Airbus A320neo aircraft, is certainly a serious incident and the government should not have allowed the DGCA to carry out the investigation,” said Mohan Ranganathan, a former pilot and an aviation safety expert. “The decision to hand over such serious investigations to the DGCA raises some serious questions on the intent of the ministry and the DGCA.”
The aviation secretary said the failed engine from the GoAir plane was sent to the manufacturer’s facility for strip examination and to pin point the cause of the failure. The US government’s National Transportation Safety Board has forwarded a report and concluded that wrong fitment of the gear in the main gear box had led to a chip warning, he added.
Airbus A320neo planes, with Pratt & Whitney engines and operated by IndiGo and GoAir in India, have been in news for troubles with the engines, leading to the grounding of 10 such aircraft. Multiple incidents of engine failure have prompted the safety regulator to order regular checks on these airliners.