The Centre has refuted in Delhi High Court the claim that civil aviation authorities are overlooking the alleged violation of aircraft maintenance schedules by airlines, endangering passenger safety.
The Civil Aviation Ministry and the Director General for Civil Aviation’s (DGCA) denied that various private airlines operating in the country were “violating/circumventing the mandatory provisions for airworthiness and air safety”.
The submission was made before a bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Sangita Dhingra Sehgal during hearing of a PIL alleging that aviation authorities were overlooking the prescribed maintenance schedules and sought directions to them to ensure safety of passengers on aircraft flying in and out India.
The counsel for the ministry submitted that till date they have not received any complaint regarding any deficiency in aircraft services.
It further said that the petitioner, advocate Alok Kumar, was a frequent flyer, yet he was alleging there were no safety measures in the flights.
The bench then asked the petitioner to give suggestions with regard to safety requirements in aircraft and listed the matter for further hearing on October 19.
The aviation authorities response came in view of Kumar’s plea seeking direction to DGCA, the regulatory body governing aviation safety, “to formulate a procedure to systematically and periodically monitor and ensure that all airlines follow aircraft maintenance schedules prescribed by aircraft manufacturers”.
All aircraft maintenance checks are periodic inspections that have to be carried out on all commercial or civil aircraft after a certain time or flying hours. There are several levels of checks which have to be performed on the planes as per the given schedules.
The petition contends that 90 per cent of Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) services were carried out outside India and most Indian airlines operated on third-party MRO service providers located abroad.
As a result, private airlines, in order to save time and cost, were not regularly sending their aircraft for mandatory service, the PIL has alleged.
It said the absence of proper maintenance could lead to major aviation accidents leading to loss of lives, property and irredeemably affect the image of Indian aviation industry and the effectiveness of its regulator DGCA.
The plea said the DGCA came up with the state safety programme in 2010 which has not been implemented because of shortage of inspectors/officials available with the DGCA.
As the country’s airline traffic is growing and the airline market becoming more and more competitive, private players were giving the mandatory safety requirements a go-by for cutting down on cost and time, and aircraft and flight crew were utilised beyond the maximum prescribed period for maximum revenue generation, the plea has said.
The PIL has also sought directions to DGCA to take action against erring airlines and to frame regulations pertaining to maximum working hours for pilots and flight crew.