Indian DGCA’s Audit shows the Technical Aviation Safety Competence needed for International Acceptance

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The Directorate General of Civil Aviation of India is under considerable scrutiny by ICAO, EASA and the FAA concerning its competence to provide adequate scrutiny of the companies (airlines and other aviation concerns) within its jurisdiction. While it may be unpleasant for one sovereign to reviewed by another government, this practice has become accepted in the international safety regime. The below article suggests that the DGCA is taking appropriate action as to the airlines it surveys and by so doing is showing that it deserves respect.

In January, 2014 the FAA seemed to say that the Indian authority lacked the technical expertise necessary, had inadequately trained personnel and showed poor record-keeping or inspection procedures. Those criticisms are very substantive within the context of these audits. In essence, the FAA expressed doubt that the DGCA could examine a carrier, for example, and determine that the airline was in compliance. More people, more education and perhaps more independence may be needed.

The below article is strong evidence that the Indian aviation authority is making progress.

First, auditing the spare parts inventory requires expert technical knowledge. The team examining the airline records and supply stores to determine that the quantity is adequate must have expertise as to what the critical parts are, what is the expected turnover rate and what may be needed to replenish the specific items. Airlines have a number of options under maintenance rules and tracking when a “deferral”, for example, is appropriate and when it constitutes unacceptable risk involves sophisticated comprehension of the regulations and the airline’s own maintenance handbooks. Discerning what is an acceptable practice and what is not requires considerable knowledge and judgment.

A second positive sign is that the DGCA made their findings public and did not bow to the pressures from Air India, Jet Airways (India) Ltd, SpiceJet Ltd, IndiGo and GoAir to keep such bad news private. News reports of such deficiencies tend to impact customer choices. Such bad press is particularly sensitive when the airlines are losing money.

The third indication that the DGCA is doing the right thing is that its chief Prabhat Kumar has established a procedure for review. He has asked the five airlines to explain their views of the Directorate’s allegation. Due process is one of the elements which the auditing countries look for in the CAAs being reviewed.

What remains is for Mr. Kumar to take some action involving remediation of the identified spare parts issue and/or some sanction for such failure. Most of civil aviation regulation depends on the certificate holder “voluntarily complying” with the regulations. If it is proved that one or more of these carriers did violate the regulations, it is proper to take some action designed to deter a repeat of that error. Further, the Directorate staff should set up a follow up inspection to determine if the airline really implemented the steps to be certain that future inventory meets the requirements.

This exercise of the DGCA’s safety powers should be carefully documented by the staff and the review of the audit, actions, sanctions and follow up should be Chapter 1 in their next visit by the FAA, EASA and ICAO.

ARTICLE: DGCA concerned over plane parts supply after airline audits

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