The DGCA, India’s aviation safety regulator, has continued to turn a blind eye to Kingfisher Airlines with its recent moves. Despite being able to cancel/suspend the license of Kingfisher, the mantra of the agency under Aviation Minister Ajit Singh has been that the airline cannot be shut down until they get down to 5 aircraft or less in the fleet or have a serious safety lapse.
With Kingfisher down to 10 operational aircraft, not having paid staff in over 6 months, and being continually crippled by ongoing staff agitations, it seems a miracle that the airline is still around. And with no money to pay engineers or buy spare parts, it’s even more incredible that the aircraft are still flying.
The DGCA is expected increase technical surveillance of carriers under financial pressure as per ICAO regulations. But instead of doing that, the DGCA has cancelled the daily technical surveillance ordered by former DGCA EK Bharat Bhushan, citing “cost issues.” The safety audit performed over the last few weeks by the DGCA will be used to “suggest remedial course of action to the airline” instead of taking punitive measures over safety issues.
But the strangest move yet came when the DGCA has sought comments on changing the title of a Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR) to remove the phrase “Assessment of Impact of Financial Stress on Safety of Operations.” To be clear, the DGCA is suggesting that financial stress be removed from what the DGCA monitors.
These kinds of moves seem like they are clearly intentioned to protect Kingfisher, which owes thousands of crores to AAI, oil companies, banks, and more.
However, Vijay Mallya will have to learn for himself a simple truth in aviation – safety is expensive, but an accident is far worse.