DGCA issues show-cause notices to Ahmedabad, Chennai airports


NEW DELHI: Not maintaining “critical parts of aerodrome required to conduct safe aircraft operations … in accordance with (rules),” has earned the Ahmedabad and Chennai airports a show-cause notice each from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Tuesday. The aviation regulator has told the airport directors of these two airports that “local airport management has failed to do timely preventive maintenance leading to this situation” referring to critical findings of the audit like slippery runway surfaces, uncovered drains in operational area and presence of large loose stones on the airstrip while asking them to submit their replies within 15 days.

The DGCA, which is currently auditing airlines and airports after a spate of incidents in past rainy fortnight, had couple of days back issued four show-cause notices to SpiceJet for “lack of safety management system in the organisation” after three flights of the airline saw back-to-back incidents on landing. Comments from Airports Authority of India (AAI) have been sought and the story will be updated once it does so. Both Ahmedabad and Chennai are key airports handling significant number of hundreds of flights daily.

The Ahmedabad airport saw a DGCA team conducting a special inspection last Wednesday and Thursday (July 3-4). The show cause notice is learnt to have pointed out: “Analysis of six months’ data shows frequency of friction test is not maintained as (per rules) that mandate runway friction test is to be carried out every month. Friction test reports considered for analysis from December 2018 to June 2019 are showing downward trend in friction values below maintenance planning level and at few places, it has gone down to below minimum level.” This despite the fact that rules mandate airport operator to take “immediate corrective action when friction” readings go below required levels.

The audit points deficiencies in Ahmedabad runway surface conditions and that the runway-end safety area is undulated at places. “Concrete items, bitumen waste, electrical trenches/main hole, drainage open holes are lying (sic) in runway strip,” it is learnt to point out.

Chennai airport saw the special inspection last Thursday and Wednesday (July 2-3). The show cause notice is learnt to have pointed out that in a portion of the runway, friction reading was below required levels. “Non-frangible materials (concrete slabs, open concrete trench/chambers) ere found on the runway strip… Several large loose stones were found on runway end safety area (both sides of the airstrip),” the notice is learnt to have pointed out following the audit findings. Some runway signboards and lighting were also not found to be in order.

The airport directors of Ahmedabad and Chennai have been asked to respond within 15 days in writing as to why action should not taken against them for not maintaining the facilities properly. If they do not respond, the DGCA will take “ex-parte decision” on them.

The regulator had last week ordered a special audit of all airlines, and airports in areas witnessing heavy rainfall following a spate of incidents while landing. This order came after after six incidents on landing in three days between June 30 and July 2, with flights of SpiceJet alone accounting for three of them; Air India Express for two and one of GoAir.

The audit covered: issues like pilot training for operating in monsoon and adverse weather. In the area of aerodromes, runway conditions, runway lights and markings, navigation facilities and water drainage capacity are being checked.

On July 4, the regulator last Thursday served a string of notices to SpiceJet for “lack of safety management system in the organisation” and alleged failure to take timely action to prevent these back-to-back incidents. The notices pointed that SpiceJet “failed to analyse these trends and did not take any remedial action”; that the crew involved in the “exceedances were not made available for corrective training”; “majority of cases requiring correction action/training, the involved crew has been given counselling (sometimes even one telephone)” and “(official incharge) did not ensure implementation of SMS (safety management system) in flight crew training department”.
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