DGCA, SpiceJet turned blind eye to repeated lapses by senior pilot

In what appears to be a clear violation of flight safety norms, both the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and low cost carrier SpiceJet disregarded official reports of lapses by the latter’s pilot on two occasions. Even more shocking is the fact that the pilot in question, Capt Rahul Malhotra, was promoted twice after the first incident involving a hard landing at Jammu airport.

In the Jammu incident on October 4, 2013, Malhotra was responsible for a hard landing of the Bombardier Q400 turboprop aircraft that he was piloting. However, in the pre-flight check before departing for the next destination, Malhotra did not report the incident while completing the tech log-sheet, which he got through with in a mere 10 minutes.

Documents available with Mumbai Mirror show that on October 15, 2013 — ten days after the hard landing incident — the operations group of the Civil Aviation Safety Advisory Council (CASAC), a government appointed aviation safety body, had written to then director general of civil aviation, Arun Mishra, detailing the incident.

The aircraft then operated four more sectors before reaching Chennai on October 5, where its Digital Flight Data Recorder (DFDR) was decoded by SpiceJet engineers, the CASAC report to DGCA said.

During this, it was revealed that there had been a hard landing, and an appropriate check was carried out which confirmed the same.

The CASAC report made it clear that the violation of safety norms was disregarded by the three senior SpiceJet pilots deputed to DGCA as Flight Operations Inspectors (FOI) — Capts NP Puri, Sandeep Verma and Vishal Sahni – as well as the airline’s Chief Pilot, Capt Virendra Malhotra, who happens to be the offending pilot’s father.

Over the next several months, Rahul Malhotra was promoted as a check pilot was cleared twice — first as a trainer in 2013 and again as a synthetic flight instructor (SFI) for simulatorbased training in August 2014 — by DGCA. In an earlier incident on February 6, 2013, CASAC had named Malhotra in its report to DGCA for overshooting the runway at Allahabad airport.

The reports submitted to DGCA on October 15 and 16, 2013 along with proof of the cover-up by SpiceJet by former CASAC member Capt Mohan Ranganathan were never entertained by Mishra.

According to the CASAC complaint, the landing recorded a vertical accelaration of 2.18g, considered severe for the aircraft. “The pre-flight inspection was carried out by the captain and the flight was cleared without any entry in the tech logsheet for heavy landing. This is a clear violation and appears to have been done with the complete knowledge of the airline top brass,” Capt Ranganathan told Mumbai Mirror.

Documents available with Mirror show that the pre-flight inspection was completed by Capt Malhotra within ten minutes of the aircraft’s landing. “The aircraft was ready for passengers to deplane after landing at 9:57 am, after the hard landing at Jammu. The captain could not have completed the checklist and paperwork before then. Yet, he has carried out the pre-flight inspection schedule and signed the tech-log at 10:07 am,” Ranganathan added.

The remarks column in the techlog after the pre-flight inspection reads ‘NIL’, while the work order for carrying out the hard landing checks on October 5, 2013 by Spicejet’s engineering department mentions that the aircraft made a hard landing of 2.18g. This was pointed out by CASAC as proof.

“It appears efforts were underway to cover up this event. By not reporting a hard landing where structural damage could have taken place, and continued operation of the aircraft on regular passenger service without the mandatory checks points to a serious deficiency of safety concept in the airline and the integrity of DGCA’s on-deputation FOIs, who belong to the airline,” Ranganathan said.

Spicejet, in a statement, said, “The alleged incidents in question occurred in early to mid 2013. SpiceJet is investigating the reports in full cooperation with the DGCA. At no time was safety compromised, and allegations that aircraft flew while not airworthy are completely false. SpiceJet has had an impeccable safety record in its nine years of operation.”

DGCA chief Prabhat Kumar and Capt Rahul Malhotra were unavailable for comment.

- Source:  http://www.mumbaimirror.com