A chartered air ambulance crashed in a densely populated area on the outskirts of India’s national capital late May 25, killing 10 people, including seven on board, which combined with other recent accidents has spurred India to create a new accident investigation committee.
Authorities say thePC-12 single-engined turboprop aircraft was flying a seriously ill patient to New Delhi from the eastern state of Patna when the crash occurred at 10:50 p.m. local time.
The aircraft, manufactured in 2005, belonged to Delhi-based Air Chartered Services India.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation, the country’s aviation regulator, started a probe into the crash. Preliminary reports point toward technical malfunction and high velocity winds as the major reasons for the accident.
Civil Aviation Secretary Nasim Zaidi says a committee of inquiry has been set up by the Ministry of Civil Aviation to probe all aspects of the accident.
Though the DGCA regulator has stepped up efforts to allay air fears, aviation experts note that the recent air crashes highlight that the aviation regulator lacks the required robustness and resources to deal with safety concerns.
A.K. Sharan, joint director general in India’s civil aviation ministry, says that a ”road map has been prepared to eliminate all kinds of air fears.”
With an increasing number of air incidents and continuous criticism for shoddy probes, the DGCA has decided to create an Accident Investigation Committee. It will be an independent investigation system that identifies all immediate and underlying systemic causes of an accident and recommends appropriate safety action aimed at avoiding the hazard or eliminating the deficiencies.
The committee will work under the supervision of the Ministry of Civil Aviation.
DGCA has been conducting investigations of accidents and serious incidents and providing support for the investigation by the Court of Inquiry and Committee of Inquiry.
A ministry official says that in accordance with the International Civil Aviation Organization’s standards and recommended practices, and to provide an investigative function independent from the regulatory function, it is necessary to create a separate investigation committee.
“With the growth of aviation and corresponding increase in occurrences to be investigated, it is necessary to identify the causes of accidents in an independent manner,” the ministry official says.
Other measures by DGCA include conducting an audit of safety measures at heliports and all critical airports, particularly those situated in remote areas; rigorous spot checks on the runway and night inspections of airstrips.
The ministry has also outlined some key safety initiatives to look into the oversight system, air navigation, flight operations and pilot training.
“Some of the immediate actions include a reassurance drive in the areas of aerodromes, airworthiness and operations, availability of approved documentation and assurance on following of regulations by the airlines,” the ministry official says.
Under the revised DGCA guidelines, preflight health checks for pilots have been made compulsory and flight and duty time limitations and rest requirements for night crewmembers have also been put in place to mitigate pilot fatigue. In case of an emergency, co-pilots will be empowered to take control after shouting out two warnings to the commander.
But Y.N. Sharma, the chief operating officer at New Delhi-based Chimes Aviation Academy, says, “Inquiry into an accident is needed to ascertain what went wrong and continually strive to make the system better. However, it should not be limited to just finding faults but also ensure at improving the safety standards.”
The DGCA is constantly focusing on upgrading its regulatory regime. But a lot more needs to be done, he says.
“The DGCA should amend its system. There are a lot of parameters that the investigative authorities have to follow to arrive at a conclusion,” Sharma says.