Two years after a body panel fell off a Boeing 787 Dreamliner operated by Air India, a probe report has attributed the incident to human error and lapses on part of the airline. Only four of the 47 screws meant to hold the panel in place were fitted at the time of the mishap, says the report, which was recently released by the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).
On October 12, 2013, an eight feet by four feet piece of fuselage, also known as heat exchanger access panel, came off the belly of AI-803 from New Delhi to Bangalore. There were 147 passengers and seven crew members on board the plane at the time of the mishap which took place during landing at Bangalore airport. It was being piloted by Captain Gopal Nambiar. The report by the aviation regulator indicts the national carrier for operating the aircraft under minimum equipment list beyond the grace period allowed by the DGCA.
An MEL is a list of equipment that must be installed and operable for an aircraft to be considered air worthy. It is aircraft-specific and spells out which pieces of equipment may be inoperable while maintaining airworthiness. While AI had been given 10 days to fix the faulty parts, they continued to fly the aircraft without repairing them. As per the nine-page report by Sanjay Bramhane, deputy director, air safety (western region), the aircraft was operating under MEL when it arrived from Frankfurt to New Delhi on October 9, 2013. Due to additional sub systems malfunction, the aircraft was declared on-ground and sent for repairs.