New Delhi: Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), the aviation regulator, which is vested with powers to issue licences to airlines and evaluate their safety preparedness, does not want to have anything to do with the financial health of any airline. Or so it would seem.
In a strange move, which comes when questions are being raised over the DGCA turning a blind eye to the ailing Kingfisher Airlines and its employee woes, the regulator has sought comments for changing the title of a Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR) which earlier included the term “Assessment of Impact of Financial Stress on Safety of Operations”.
A CAR is a guideline which determines how an airline will be judged on a particular parameter. And this particular CAR, which reads ‘Evaluation of Air Carrier’s Management of Significant Changes – Assessment of Impact of Financial Stress on Safety of Operations’, was devised by former DGCA EK Bharatbhushan to include an airline’s financial situation also among parameters which should be evaluated before declaring an airline safe.
But Bharatbhushan was booted out by Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh some weeks back and with him, it seems, has gone the DGCA’s efforts o link safety to financial health.
Top sources in the DGCA told Firstpost today, “We are not changing anything but the title of this CAR. Use of the word financial in it means we should go into all financial matters of an airline but this is not our intention. Financial surveillance is a very broad term….as DGCA we cannot examine the books of a company. We are only concerned with whatever impacts safety”.
It is pertinent to note here that a report on the safety audit of Kingfisher, being conducted after the regime change at DGCA, should be submitted to the regulator some time this week. Kingfisher Airlines continues to be in dire financial straits with less than a fourth of its original fleet operational, and employees crying foul over unpaid wages.
So if its pilots, engineers and other staff have not been paid for close to six months and remain under stress, does this mean any safety-related incident due to such mental conditions will not be looked into by the DGCA? Apparently not. And not just Kingfisher, this could apply in some cases to Air India and to any other airline also.
A distressed Kingfisher employee circulated an appeal late last week where he said: “Not one month, not two months, it’s been almost one year now… How long can a salaried person take it? Don’t we have our families to run? The depression has got into each one of us. DGCA and the government have also shut their eyes. We all are on the verge of complete breakdown. In aviation we have so-called human factors. What is a human who is not paid for six months? Can he work and give his best? No. But still our government is quiet”.
Meanwhile, the CAR clearly mentions that ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) standards call for careful examination of any conditions that may indicate a significant deterioration in the operator’s financial condition. “It further mentions that when such financial difficulties are encountered, technical surveillance of the operator be increased with particular emphasis on the maintenance of safety standards.”