Amid repeated incidents of malfunctions involving budget airline SpiceJet Ltd, the aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) grounded 10 of its aircraft after conducting a total of 53 spot checks and also issued a show-cause notice on July 6. The airline was given three weeks to submit its response.
The civil aviation ministry has said in Parliament that during its probe, the aviation regulator carried out a total of 53 spot checks on 48 aircraft between July 9 and July 13, during which “no major safety violation” was found.
"However, as a safety measure, DGCA ordered M/s Spicejet to use certain identified aircraft (10) for operations only after confirming to DGCA that all reported defects/malfunctions are rectified," MoS in the civil aviation ministry, General V.K. Singh (retd.) says in a reply in the Rajya Sabha on July 25.
SpiceJet says this comes as a major "vindication" for the airline, and that it had rectified the malfunctions identified in 10 planes by the DGCA and all these 10 aircraft are back in operation. "The rectification had been done immediately after the DGCA observation," it adds.
The minister informs Parliament that in 2022, apart from SpiceJet, the DGCA had carried out the regulatory audit of Vistara, Bluedart, and IndiGo, too. In addition, a special safety audit of Alliance Air was also carried out, he adds.
On the recent incidents of malfunctions in SpiceJet, the minister says these were analysed and an explanation was sought from Spicejet. "There has been no delay in issuing the notice," he adds.
As per the DGCA, its financial assessment of Spicejet carried out in September 2021 revealed the airline is operating on "cash and carry" and suppliers were not being paid on regular basis, which led to a shortage of spares and frequent invoking of MELs (minimum equipment lists) releases.
MEL allows an aircraft to fly even if something is broken but only under specific conditions and for a specific period before the problem is fixed.
The DGCA's safety oversight process involves a series of successive follow-up steps, which include the communication of findings to the airlines for taking corrective action, review of corrective action taken by them or initiating enforcement action, consisting of warning, suspension, cancellation, and imposition of financial penalty.
Ajay Singh, chairman and managing director, SpiceJet, says the airline has been running safe flight operations for 17 years. "I am glad these findings and assessment are of none other than the DGCA, India’s topmost aviation safety agency and regulator,” he adds.
The Gurugram-based SpiceJet operates a fleet of Boeing 737s, Bombardier Q400s and freighters. Besides, the DGCA has also started a two-month special audit of domestic airlines to probe continuous technical malfunctions and other issues.
SpiceJet received a lot of attention due to repeated malfunctions reported in recent days. Among the incidents that were reported, a SpiceJet Boeing 737 aircraft carrying passengers from Delhi to Dubai had to be landed in Karachi, Pakistan, after developing a technical malfunction in July.
SpiceJet's Delhi-Jabalpur flight had to be returned as crew members observed smoke in the cabin mid-air due to oil leakage in one of its engines. On June 20, a SpiceJet Boeing 737-800, with about 200 people on board, had to be returned to Patna after take-off as sparks were observed in one of its engines.
Similar incidents have been reported with other airlines like Air India, Go First, IndiGo, and Air India Express.