The Business Aircraft Operators Association (BAOA) has claimed they have been unfairly targeted about the safety standards in the industry.
“It is dismaying to find that undue and subjective publicity is being given to the inspection reports of DGCA, involving aircraft of non-scheduled operator and private operators. We would like to submit that such subjective and adverse publicity is totally uncalled for, especially since these inspections are a matter of routine,” the BAOA has noted in a letter addressed to the civil aviation secretary.
The BAOA has also clarified in the letter that these inspections should not be connected with the recent downgrade of India by the US Federal Aviation Administration. These are two independent events. Non-scheduled operators run planes and helicopters that can be hired by anyone to fly to any destination that has landing facilities.
This makes them more versatile than scheduled airlines and an asset during the election season.
“It is not fair to make Indian non-scheduled aircraft operators a scapegoat to showcase DGCA's authority by subjective reporting of the observations during these inspections,” the letter reads. A similar compliant was also sent to the DGCA earlier this week.
DGCA officials have dismissed the allegations saying media reports are about cases where there have been genuine lapses by the operators. “We can not do anything about the concerns they have over reportage by the media,” said a DGCA official.
On March 24, the DGCA to ensure safe operations during the election season had issued stringent safety guidelines and threatened to cancel the air operators’ permit of business jets and helicopters which failed to conform to these rules.
The guidelines were reissued after the aviation regulator found discrepancies in operation standards by a few non-scheduled operators.
On March 22, DGCA had grounded a business jet owned by Reliance Commercial Dealers Ltd, as its safety equipment, such as fire extinguisher and personal breathing device, were beyond expiry dates and the commander was found without his flying licence (he was suspended). The plane was allowed to fly on a day later after the safety requirements were met. The regulator also said an aircraft registered with Jindal Steel and Power had come under scrutiny on the same day. But since it had not made any major violation, it was not grounded.
Four days after the guidelines were reissued, a Hawker 800 XP of SRC Aviation, which was to fly from Delhi to Colombo, was not allowed to take off for several hours as DGCA officials, conducting the checks, found several safety violations, like absence of life jackets or minimum equipment list. The aviation regulator also held up two flights by aircrafts owned by L&T and by Poonawalla Aviation company citing violation of safety norms in Mumbai. All of them were widely reported.