New Delhi: Air India Express, the low-fare unit of national carrier Air India, ignored safety audit findings of the aviation regulator and failed to meet the requirements laid down to operate an airline, an investigation into the Mangalore plane crash has revealed.
At least 158 people died in the 22 May crash when Air India Express flight IX-812 from Dubai to Mangalore landed in a gorge overshooting the so-called table-top runway.
The 175-page investigation report on the crash said Air India Express overlooked the findings of the regulator in 2007, as Mint had reported on 10 August.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation did a safety audit of Air India Express in November 2007. A similar audit ordered after the crash found the same irregularities such as unqualified manpower and crew scheduling were repeated, the report said.
Air India Express continued to use the service of its parent Air India and grew rapidly to a fleet of 25 from three in a short span of four years starting 2005.
Air India Express’ chief of operations, training and chief of flight safety continued to be pilots deputed from Air India, who flew Boeing 777 or Boeing 747. Air India Express flies Boeing 737 aircraft.
“None of these post holders were qualified on Boeing 737-800 aircraft operated by Air India Express,” the report said, adding there was a need for a “calibrated growth of Air India Express” where “infrastructure and, in particular, induction of duly qualified manpower also takes place.”
“Air India Express operations are very safe—no compromises on that front,” an Air India spokesman said in a reply to an email seeking comment on the findings of the report. “The process of Air India Express becoming a separate and independent entity is underway. And yes, Air India Express now operates as a distinct entity with its own air operator permit.”
Monitoring of training standards of pilots were also not paid attention to, the report said.
“It was observed that the organization had not paid adequate emphasis to monitor training and subsequent evaluation to raise the standards for safe operation,” it said. “There was no audit of training requirements...none of the senior supervisors responsible for flight safety had undergone any formal training in this specialized area.”
The mandatory analysis of the cockpit voice recorder is “presently being carried out only for flights operating into Mumbai”. The analysis is done to ascertain if the pilots made any errors in their flights.
Air India Express operates the bulk of the flights from Kozhikode, Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram, Chennai and Mangalore, according to the carrier.
“It suggests they have gone soft on Air India Express and the blame should also be attributed on the Air India top management, DGCA officials and Airports Authority of India for overlooking safety principles,” said Chennai-based safety expert Mohan Ranganathan.
The investigation also admitted the airline uses pencil and eraser, as Mint reported earlier, to make crew rosters, which “leaves room for frequent changes leading to lack of transparency”. It also found that Serbian commander Zlatko Glusica, who was the commander of the crashed flight, slept for 1 hour and 40 minutes of the 2 hour 15 minutes flight and was “assertive in his actions” by nature and tended to indicate that he was “always right”. In this flight, Glusica ignored his co-pilot’s call to abort landing and go for a second attempt.
The report indicated that Glusica “was not fully fit and hence found it difficult to stay awake” even though post mortem blood and body samples did not show any signs of sedatives. Medicines found in his hotel room were sent back to the family before they could be investigated, it said.