Minister of Civil Aviation statement on Air India Express crash at Mangalore

As per a release by the Press Information Bureau, Govt. of India, following is the full text of the Statement by Shri Praful Patel, Minister of Civil Aviation in the Rajya Sabha on August 3rd, in response to the Calling Attention Motion tabled by Shri P. Rajeeve, MP, Rajya Sabha regarding “Serious safety problems faced by airline industry in the country in the context of Mangalore aircraft crash”

“Flight IX 812 of Air India Express operating from Dubai to Mangalore on Boeing 737-800 aircraft, was involved in an unfortunate accident on 22nd May 2010 while landing at Mangalore airport. There were 160 passengers and 6 crew members on Board. While all crew members lost their lives, 8 passengers managed to survive the crash.

The weather on that day was conducive for landing and the visibility was 06 KMs. The runway was dry and ATC clearance had been given for Instrument Landing System (ILS) approach landing on Runway 24. As per Manufacturer requirements, the runway length for Boeing 737 – 800 type of aircraft should be 7500 feet. The runway at Mangalore airport is 8100 feet in length.

The aircraft was new. It was delivered on 15th January, 2008 and made its first commercial flight on 25th January, 2008. The aircraft did not have any reported history of technical snag.

The flight was under the command of Capt. Zslatko Glucika, age 55 years, who had a total flying experience of 10,215 hours, out of which 2844 hours was on Boeing 737–800 type of aircraft and he had 7630 hours of experience as Pilot-in-Command (PIC). The PIC had also successfully cleared the language proficiency test prescribed by DGCA. The Co-Pilot, Capt. H.S. Ahluwalia, age 40½ years, had a total flying experience of 3619 hours of which 3319 hours was on Boeing 737–800 type of aircraft.

DGCA has specified Flight Duty Time and Flight Time limitations by way of Aeronautical Information Circular No. 28/1992 dated 10th December, 1992 . As per these limitations for international flights with two pilot crew no air carrier may schedule a flight crew to fly for more than nine hours of flight time during any 24 consecutive hours without a rest period. The PIC was on vacation and joined on 19th May, 2010. He was given rest till evening of 21st of May, 2010. He took a flight (IC – 811) at 09.30 PM on 21st May, 2010 and was assigned flying duty for flight No. IX – 812 on 22nd May, 2010. The co – pilot had earlier been assigned flying duties on 18th May, 2010 at 06.00 AM and was given rest on 19th, 20th and 21st of May, 2010 before being assigned flight duty on flight IX – 812 on 22nd May, 2010. In the case of the crew of the ill – fated aircraft the flight time recorded was 8 hours and 35 minutes and adequate rest was provided to the crew.

Both the pilots were fairly experienced in landing and take-offs from Mangalore airport. While the PIC had made 19 takeoffs and landings here, the Co-Pilot had made 66 takeoffs and landings.

The PIC was a British National and had Serbian licence. As per the Rule 45 of the Aircraft Rules, 1937, the Central Government has the power to validate licences granted by the duly competent authority in any foreign State and which for the time being in force, for the purpose of flying aircraft registered in India. This power has been delegated to DGCA depending on demand and availability of Indian Commanders. The delegation is valid till 31st July 2011. Under the above delegation, DGCA issues Foreign Aircrew Temporary Authorisation (FATA). The FATA of the PIC of the ill–fated aircraft was valid till 31st July, 2010.

Out of 158 persons who died in the accident, interim compensation of Rs. 10 lakh to each adult deceased passenger; Rs. 5 lakh to each passenger below the age of 12; and Rs. 2 lakh to each injured passenger has been fixed. This interim compensation has been paid to the next of kin of 127 out of 128 adult passengers who lost their lives and to all 20 children, 4 infants and 8 injured passengers. One passenger whose family members are in Dubai, due to unavoidable circumstances could not travel to India to claim interim compensation. Arrangements are being made to settle the claim in Dubai itself. Also interim compensation to 5 of the 6 crew members have been disbursed. In the case of the Commander Capt. Zslatko Glucika, whose family is in Belgrade, NACIL is in the process of distributing the interim compensation. An amount of Rs. 14.56 crores has been disbursed towards the above till date. It will be pertinent to mention here that the final compensation has to be assessed in accordance with the provisions of the Carriage by Air Act, 1972, which incorporates the Montreal Convention. Under this Convention, the amount of compensation is to be worked out in each case separately on “proof of loss basis”. It is the endeavour of the Ministry to secure maximum compensation to the family members of the deceased as per Montreal convention. In 40 such cases, Air India Express has almost finalized the extent of final compensation as per the Montreal Convention. For the rest, process is underway.

A Court of Enquiry headed by Air Marshal (Retd.) B.N. Gokhale has been set up under Rule 75 of the Aircraft Rules 1937 on 3.06.2010. The Court is expected to submit its Report by 31st August 2010.

After the tragic crash, a Civil Aviation Safety Advisory Council (CASAC) has been set up in DGCA under the Chairmanship of Director General of Civil Aviation with 28 expert members from industry and stakeholders who have made significant contribution in aviation sector. The Council has constituted 4 different working groups for (i) Operations, (ii) Airworthiness, (iii) Air Navigation and (iv) Aerodromes. The Council can also invite international experts from ICAO, FAA, EASA, Boeing, Airbus etc. Based on the above safety issues directions were issued to all concerned regarding adherence to SOPs – Stabilized approach for safe landing; Approach and Landing Reduction (ALAR) / Monsoon training; Review of missed approach – ‘Go around’ encouraged in case of un-stabilized approach; Hard landing not punitive – when within limits; Presence of Cabin crew in cockpit in case of one pilot leaving the cockpit – log to be maintained by Sr. Cabin Crew; Cabin Crew to interact with pilots on intercom during period of lean cockpit activity; In the event of incapacitation of PIC, copilot to take over control and in the event of PIC not responding to calls of copilot regarding ‘go around’, assertiveness by copilot to be encouraged.

DGCA vide order dated 2nd June 2010 has decided that a team of officials from the Aerodrome and Flight Standard Directorate shall carry out special audit of airports identified as critical on a priority basis and shall review thoroughly the system and facilities at these aerodromes and also review any other assessment derived from the aerodrome specific restrictions. Recommendations of the audit would be implemented by AAI within 1 month, at its airports, while for Defence airports, matter would be taken up with Defence Ministry for the implementation. 11 airports have been identified as critical, namely: Agartala, Calicut, Jammu, Kullu, Latur, Leh, Lengpui, Mangalore, Patna, Port Blair and Shimla.

DGCA has also issued Operations Circular 12 of 2010 on 1st June 2010 impressing upon all Scheduled/Non-Scheduled/General Aviation Operators to strictly adhere to the standard operating procedures for approach and landing that would result in decent landings acceptable within the limitations of the aircraft without compromising stopping distance requirements.

I would also like to mention here that DGCA is committed to sustain and enhance a robust safety oversight system through proactive regulation and its strict compliance. The challenge before DGCA is to manage phenomenal growth of air traffic without compromising on aviation safety. DGCA has taken various initiatives to ensure safe operations, some of which I would like to highlight here.

A Surveillance and Enforcement Division has been set up in DGCA for preparation and monitoring of the Annual Surveillance Programme. The Division coordinates monthly meetings to review the surveillance conducted and a database of all findings detected during surveillance is maintained and monitored. While, DGCA conducted 4327 surveillance activities in 2009, this year, 4788 activities have been planned and a substantial number of enforcement action has been taken.

A Board for Aviation Safety (BFAS) has been set up to resolve and monitor the progress of enforcement of deficiencies noted during surveillance. The BFAS also determines enforcement actions against the approval holders based on the seriousness of the deficiencies observed. To promote sharing of safety information by all stakeholders, the findings are displayed in a de-identified form on DGCA’s website. This approach will help in identifying and dealing with safety threats before they result in any mishap.

DGCA has also started evaluating the financial health of scheduled airlines and its impact on safety and is in the process of framing regulations to ensure that safety is not compromised on account of financial distress of airlines.

Three ICAO technical projects in the areas of flight safety, aerodrome standards and navigation services have been commissioned by DGCA to enhance its safety oversight capabilities. The aerodrome project has just been completed and ICAO findings in the identified areas have been addressed. The other two projects are underway and are expected to be finalized soon.

An Aviation Regulatory Advisory Panel (ARAP) with eight Working Groups has been set up to review existing regulations in airworthiness, flight operations, flight safety, licencing, air transport services and air navigation services. The panel will study the best international practices and globally harmonized standards and suggest revision in current regulations wherever required.

The concept of Safety Management System (SMS), recommended by ICAO is also under consideration and a draft regulation for the same is under process.”

About Devesh Agarwal

A electronics and automotive product management, marketing and branding expert, he was awarded a silver medal at the Lockheed Martin innovation competition 2010. He is ranked 6th on Mashable's list of aviation pros on Twitter and in addition to Bangalore Aviation, he has contributed to leading publications like Aviation Week, Conde Nast Traveller India, The Economic Times, and The Mint (a Wall Street Journal content partner). He remains a frequent flier and shares the good, the bad, and the ugly about the Indian aviation industry without fear or favour.

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