Riskier flights

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 1/17/2020 12:03:57 PM IST

 It was a narrow escape for 176 passengers, including three infants, on board IndiGO flight 6E-6129, a flight between Pune and Jaipur On Thursday, when one of the engines stalled mid-air which forced the pilot to declare an emergency and land the plane at Mumbai. This was the 21st such incident involving IndiGo(18 incidents) and GoAir(three incident) fitted to the A320NEO planes. The PW-1100 engine by P&W are used in A 320 Neo aircraft by France-based plane making giant Airbus. IndiGo and GoAir are the only two operators that use A320 Neo series planes in India. There have been several incidents of the A320neos having to make emergency landings due to either an engine stall or loud sounds and rattling emanating from the engines. The problem has been identified and the engine maker - American manufacturer Pratt & Whitney -has been producing modified engines to replace the snag-prone ones. The fleet first reported engine failure in 2017 and has since faced several issues. In India, the Directorate General Civil Aviation(DGCA) had temporarily grounded A320 Neos in early 2018, which was gradually lifted after Airbus and P&W assured of fixing the problems. A year later, in January 2019, DGCA further issued directives for IndiGo and GoAir to have “weekly inspection” of the engines “as per P&W special directions” and “train staff to identify foul smell” in the aircraft. After four more incidents of engine stall, DGCA was compelled to issue a warning to replace the PW engines by January 31,2020 after serious concern were expressed. Thursday’s incident comes just days after India’s aviation regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), gave the airline an extension till May 31,2020 to replace or modify all problematic engines across its fleet of Airbus A-320 and A-321 NEO aircraft. Critics have aired concern over the DGCA’s decision. By asking Indigo to ground the faulty A320neos one by one, it is giving a long rope to IndiGo risking passenger safety in the sky and a potential disruption in domestic civil aviation. The writing on the wall is unambiguous. How can DGCA predict that the risk is not likely to materialise soon and can be leisurely dealt with? Unfortunately, there is near monopoly in this restricted market and the common citizens are happy to risk their lives and disapprove disruptive regulatory action. In other countries, airline regulators have their own stringent standards to certify safety. The case of Boeing 737 Max is a case in point. Though the US based Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had endorsed the explanations given by Boeing about the 737 Max whose the new Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System(MCAS) had led to two crashes within five months in 2019. Though the FAA had given the benefit of doubt to Boeing, yet 50 countries grounded the plane. Later in the face of mounting evidence, FAA was forced to follow suit. The DGCA itself requires a total revamp as the handling of the A320 NEO issue indicates that there is some laxity somewhere. It is not about disruption of flights in the domestic front or worse, not being thoroughly competent to make a decision to ground the entire fleet of planes fitted with the faulty engine. It is about safety and lives of passengers who are placed at great risk. It is hoped DGCA will not be compelled to take the right decision to place passenger safety before the commercial interests of any operator.

Launched on December 3,1990. Nagaland Post is the first and highest circulated newspaper of Nagaland state. Nagaland Post is also the first newspaper in Nagaland to be published in multi-colour.

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