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DGCA inspecting SpiceJet’s entire fleet following turbulence incident involving airline’s flight en route to Durgapur

Published : May 04, 2022 22:36 IST T+T-
A SpiceJet aircraft, a file picture.

A SpiceJet aircraft, a file picture.

During the severe turbulence the aircraft’s autopilot got disengaged for two minutes and the crew had to fly the aircraft manually, and the 195 passengers experienced a vertical load factor that varied from +2.64G to -1.36G.

A regulatory inspection of SpiceJet’s entire fleet in the wake of the May 1 incident in which a SpiceJet Boeing 737-800 flight from Mumbai to Durgapur, West Bengal, encountered dramatic turbulence during descent, has uncovered that the primary deficiency in the airline’s fleet is "spoilage of the cabin". Sources in the airline attributed this situation to the ferrying of cargo, mainly medical supplies, in the airline’s passenger aircraft during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. An employee of the airline, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said seats were used to ferry boxes and this may have resulted in some issues such as excess wear and tear of the armrests.

Fifteen people—12 passengers and three crew members—were injured during the air accident on flight SG-945, prompting the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to launch an investigation into possible deficiencies in SpiceJet’s entire fleet. SpiceJet currently operates around 90 aircraft.

During the severe turbulence the aircraft’s autopilot got disengaged for two minutes and the crew had to fly the aircraft manually, and the 195 passengers experienced a vertical load factor that varied from +2.64G to -1.36G.

Speaking to Frontline , Arun Kumar, Director General, DGCA, said that the multi-disciplinary team deputed for the regulatory investigation had "looked" at around 45 aircraft in SpiceJet’s fleet by May 4. He added that most of the deficiencies were "being identified and addressed".

Stated Arun Kumar: "The DGCA will not permit an aircraft with any significant safety issue to fly without it first being properly attended to." Arun Kumar singed insinuations that since the aircraft was allowed to fly onward to Kolkata the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) and other evidence would have been wiped clean and nothing much would come out of an investigation.

Arun Kumar said: "We did the preliminary part of the investigations and got details from the digital flight data recorder (DFDR) and even other evidence such as the maintenance done post the accident. But now, as it is an accident, the AAIB (Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau) will take over further investigations. The CVR has been secured and is in the AAIB’s custody."

Agreeing that the damaged aircraft should not have been allowed to fly to Kolkata pending an investigation, Arun Kumar said that the airline "had deviated and for that proper enforcement action shall be taken against those responsible". The DGCA, pending the investigation, suspended the maintenance engineer who had cleared the aircraft to fly from Durgapur to Kolkata. The DGCA has also de-rostered SpiceJet’s cabin and cockpit crew who were on that flight.

Arun Kumar refuted criticism that there could be a possible conflict of interest considering the fact that the DG, AAIB, is from the DGCA. Said the regulatory body’s top man: "The AAIB is an independent agency and DGCA has no role in its decision making."