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Doubts Raised Over Indian Aviation Safety

by Mary Swire,, Hong Kong

16 August 2012

India's Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has conceded that a total of twenty-two potentially-life-threatening incidents occurred in Indian airspace in less than a year.

The disclosure, following a freedom of information request, will spark renewed concern over whether Indian authorities can manage to maintain the safety of its industry amid the massive financial difficulties faced by domestic airlines, and the increased burden placed on the nation's airports of double-digit annual growth in passenger traffic.

According to information disclosed by the DGCA, a total of twenty two 'near miss' incidents were reported during the period June 2011 through to April 2012. Safety deficiencies were said to be a recurring problem in particular in the Chennai flight information region, where half of these incidents were said to have occurred. Five potentially life-threatening incidents were reported in Delhi, with a further four reported in Mumbai.

Doubts have been raised about the performance that can be expected by employees of embattled airlines, Air India and Kingfisher, which have struggled to stay afloat in India's highly competitive industry, and which were forced to defer payments to staff for several months. The DGCA said it would address the safety concerns by undertaking unannounced safety audits of all Indian carriers, beginning this month, although it plans to stay out of staff-payment disputes despite concerns raised over the impact of financial 'stress' on piloting and maintenance personnel.

Indian authorities will be required to satisfy the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) that they continue to meet minimum safety standards when the ICAO undertakes a scheduled assessment next month.

India's aviation industry is experiencing explosive growth despite its domestic airlines being saddled with massive debt. A government-funded expansion plan fuelled a three-fold increase in passenger traffic between the fiscal year 2006 and 2011, with an average annual growth rate of over 11%. Cargo handling capacity has also risen markedly from 0.5 million MT (FY06) to 3.3 million MT (FY11).

TAGS: aviation

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