• Saturday, July 20, 2024

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Regulator finds lapses in Air India’s internal safety audits

Air India pledged to address the concerns raised by regulatory authorities promptly

Representational image: iStock

By: Pramod Thomas

AIR INDIA has come under scrutiny after an inspection by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) revealed fabricated internal safety audit reports.

The DGCA’s inspection team uncovered that the airline had misrepresented routine safety spot checks in its audit reports, prompting an investigation into the matter.

The civil aviation regulator dispatched a team of two inspectors to assess Air India’s internal safety audits. They found significant deficiencies and discrepancies in the reported safety checks.

According to reports, the regulator is currently conducting a thorough investigation into the incident.

In response to the allegations, an Air India spokesperson stated that safety audits are a standard practice for all airlines and are carried out by regulatory bodies and other organisations.

The airline emphasised its commitment to ongoing process assessment and improvement through these audits.

The DGCA’s findings indicated that Air India was obligated to perform routine safety spot checks across various operational areas, including cabin surveillance, cargo handling, ramp operations, and load management.

However, during an unannounced assessment of 13 safety checkpoints, the inspectors discovered that the airline had falsified reports for all 13 instances.

The inspection team cross-referenced these purported spot checks with various forms of evidence, such as CCTV recordings, auditee statements, and operational documents.

It became evident that none of the reported safety checks had actually taken place, despite being documented in reports submitted to the DGCA. The inspection team noted that the falsified reports were created or altered in response to the regulator’s inspection.

Moreover, the inspection report highlighted that the falsified reports lacked the signature of the Chief of Flight Safety (CFS), the authorised individual responsible for endorsing such documents. The absence of this endorsement raised further concerns about the authenticity of the reports.

The inspection took place at Air India’s Gurugram office in Haryana over two days in July. The inspectors documented their findings and shortcomings in a Directorate Report Form (DRF), which forms the basis of the ongoing investigation.

When contacted, Vikram Dev Dutt, director general of the DGCA, confirmed the active investigation into the matter.

The inspection report also revealed that the audit checklists had been signed by auditors from the Quality Management System (QMS) department. However, the QMS Department does not fall under the inspection scope of the DGCA, and its auditors do not meet the industry standards for eligibility and qualifications.

The DGCA report further detailed instances where the airline claimed to have conducted spot checks, but evidence suggested otherwise.

For example, in the case of pre-flight medical examinations for pilots’ alcohol consumption, the internal auditor had not physically visited the facility, as required by the checklist. Similarly, claims of spot checks during ramp services and cabin surveillance were found to be unsubstantiated.

Air India stated that it undergoes regular safety audits both in India and overseas, engaging proactively to strengthen operational processes. The airline pledged to address the concerns raised by regulatory authorities promptly.

The ongoing investigation will likely lead to further actions to rectify the lapses and uphold safety regulations within Air India’s operations.

(with inputs from PTI)

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