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Posted at: Mar 14, 2018, 12:49 AM; last updated: Mar 14, 2018, 12:49 AM (IST)

Grounding of planes

A stitch in time saves nine
Grounding of planes

The Director General of Civil Aviation’s (DGCA) grounding of several civilian aircraft is not a bolt from the blue. A new American engine fitted on French Airbus planes has been causing problems for over a year. In case of India, the concern is greater because the Airbus planes powered by this particular engine will be the core of the Indian airline market fleet in the coming years. Alarm bells had rung loud and clear when the launch customer, Qatar Airways, refused to take delivery last year of Airbus planes fitted with this particular Pratt & Whitney engine. However, in India the DGCA thought it fit to allow IndiGo and GoAir to induct planes fitted with these engines. 

The situation demands an explanation from the government because industry reports assert that both these airlines had sensed the problem and have already made nearly 20 engine changes. This begs the question whether the ultra-competitive Indian aviation ecosystem compelled IndiGo and GoAir to go ahead with Pratt & Whitney engines even though Qatar Airways had refused to take delivery and Air India deferred its purchase. The legitimate concerns about the ongoing engine modifications demand greater transparency as to why these changes are required. In fact, the DGCA also needs to explain its abrupt shift in stand: a fortnight back it had ruled out the grounding of these Airbus planes. 

The DGCA tackles a wide range of issues, from unruly passengers to guidelines for drones along with the bread and butter of ensuring safe aviation operations. It has generally measured up to the task, despite a staff shortage and overhang of the bureaucratic mindset. However, the DGCA now needs to step up vigilance, especially because the expansion in the hinterlands is new to the sophisticated aviation work culture. More communication and transparency  is needed to restore public confidence after the cancellation, on Tuesday, of a large number of flights. Past experience with such issues has been that the DGCA has not been forthcoming till it became absolutely necessary. Government regulators need to change this mindset.

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