New Delhi: A two-member inspection team of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has found lapses in internal safety audits of Air India and the regulator is probing the matter, according to officials.
When contacted, an Air India spokesperson said that all airlines are subject to regular safety audits by regulators and other bodies.
“Air India actively engages in such audits to continually assess and strengthen our processes,” the spokesperson said in a statement and added that the airline directly addresses any matters raised with the authority concerned.
According to the inspection report submitted to the DGCA, the airline was supposed to carry out regular safety spot checks in various areas of operations such as cabin surveillance, cargo, ramp and load but during a random inspection of 13 safety points, the team found that the airline prepared false reports in all 13 cases.
“Moreover, when cross-verified with CCTV, recordings, auditee statements, shift register documents, GD (General Declaration) list, passenger manifest etc, it is understood that all the aforesaid 13 spot checks shown to be carried out in stations Mumbai, Goa and Delhi were verified and were established to have not been actually performed,” the two-member team said in the ‘Deficiency Reporting Form’ (DRF).
The inspection found that the these reports “were subsequently prepared/falsified when demanded by the DGCA team”.
Further, the inspection report noted that these forged spot check reports were not signed by the Chief of Flight Safety (CFS) who has the authority to do it.
The team visited Air India’s office in Gurugram in Haryana on July 25 and 26, and after inspection, they mentioned about the lapses in the DRF.
When contacted, DGCA Director General Vikram Dev Dutt said the matter is being investigated by the regulator.
According to the inspection report, the checklists were physically signed by an auditor from the Quality Management System (QMS) Department which does not fall under the approval and inspection scope of the DGCA and has different eligibility criteria/qualification industry standards.
The inspection report said the team did not find any written communication for the delegation of authority to the auditor. “Also other than verbal confirmation by CFS, there were no email correspondences and authorisation by the CFS for the aforementioned sport checks,” it said.
As per the inspection report, regarding the Pre-Flight Medical Examination (alcohol consumption test of pilots), Air India claimed that it carried out the spot check but the team found that the airline’s internal auditor “had not physically visited the facility which is mandatory to satisfy many items of the checklist”.
“Also, the equipment details and test readings have not been noted on the checklist. Merely, all the points have been marked as satisfactory without actually performing the spot check,” it said.
With respect to ramp services, the inspection team found that the airline’s spot check list mentioned the name of a person as the duty officer but there was no such person in the said shift.
“It has also been confirmed by the auditee department that there were no spot checks carried out on the subject date in the said area. Merely, all the points have been marked as satisfactory without actually performing the spot check,” it said.
As far as spot check in cabin surveillance was concerned, the inspection team found that the airline claimed to have done it on July 16, 2023, but it was not done and “the claimed auditor was merely travelling in the said flight as a passenger with family members”.
Further, the inspection team said the airline was unable to provide the flight safety auditors list on time.
“Subsequently, the list was only provided at the end of the inspection which included the auditors of QMS as well whose qualification/eligibility is different from that stipulated in the FSM (Flight Safety Manual). As the QMS does not come under the ambit of DGCA, the CAR (Civil Aviation Requirements) doesn’t specify the qualifications of the QMS auditors,” the team said.
Further, the operator was unable to provide the actual flight safety auditors’ list and their authorisations when sought by the inspection team to differentiate the flight safety from the QMS auditors, it added.
“All aviation companies, including Air India, are subject to regular safety audits by regulators and other bodies both in India and overseas.
“Air India actively engages in such audits to continually assess and strengthen our processes. We directly address any matters raised with the authority concerned,” the Air India spokesperson said in the statement.