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Govt for setting up independent safety board

Source: PTI
June 03, 2010 17:04 IST
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Government is considering creating a dedicated mechanism to deal with all the major accidents, including air crash, and giving total autonomy to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation to further empower it as the aviation regulator of the country.

Aiming at separating the roles of the regulator and an investigator, government is considering establishing an independent safety board on the lines of the US National Transportation Safety Board, Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel said in New Delhi.

The NTSB investigates all major accidents in the US including air crashes or accidents at sea or on highways. It also assists other nations in probing such accidents, like it sent a team of investigators to India after the Mangalore air crash on May 22, in which 158 people lost their lives.

"We have had a tragic accident. We should not be now found lacking on any front. We will do everything necessary to ensure an orderly growth of aviation in the country. The expectations are very high as the sector is growing," the minister said.

After addressing the first meeting of the Civil Aviation Safety Advisory Council, set up within a week of the Mangalore air crash, he said,  "Government will definitely consider granting full autonomy to the DGCA and empower it to independently carry out its work as a regulator of Indian aviation".

If needed, the government would bring in a "suitable legislation" to turn Directorate General of Civil Aviation into a fully autonomous body with overriding authority on all aviation regulatory matters, he said.

As a need was felt that the role of the regulator and the investigator should be "de-linked", the government was considering a separate body to probe accidents, he said.

Drawing lessons from the recent crash which occurred on a 'table-top runway' located on a plateau, the DGCA has decided to carry out a drive to inspect systems and facilities at 11 airports described as "critical", Patel said, adding "critical does not mean unsafe. It reflects on the topography of the area where these airports exist".

Sources said the DGCA had sent 11 teams to these airports for inspection and review of the existing facilities, landing and navigational systems as well as the runways and recommend steps for improvements.

The "critical airports" are those in Leh, Kullu, Shimla, Port Blair, Agartala, Lengpui, Calicut, Mangalore, Jammu, Patna and Latur. He said the reports of these teams are "expected to come (to the DGCA) within a week".

Referring to the meeting of the CASAC headed by DGCA chief S N A Zaidi, the civil aviation minister said the meeting decided to set up four sub-groups -- on operations, airports and air traffic control, maintenance and helicopters-related issues.

The four sub-groups would come up with reports on enhancing safety in the respective areas within three weeks and submit them to CASAC which would meet once each month to review the progress made in all these areas, Patel said.

"All suggestions of CASAC to further enhance aviation safety in the country will be given top priority by the DGCA and the government," he said.

CASAC has been tasked to recommend best regulatory practices in air operations and other measures to further beef up aviation safety. It has 28 members drawn from various aviation sub-sectors like airlines, flight operations, air worthiness and operations.

Thursday's meeting was attended by top executives of all major airlines, Airports Authority of India, other airport operators, ATC, pilots, engineers, representatives from International Civil Aviation Organisation, US Federal Aviation Authority, Boeing, Airbus and other organisations.

Noting that the safety standards in India have been good, Patel said all regulations of the ICAO have been "fully implemented". The ICAO and the FAA have been "satisfied with our procedures" after carrying out their own safety audits.

"But we should not be satisfied as there is always scope for improvements. All stakeholders have to be equally responsible. The airlines have to strengthen their Standard Operating Procedures and DGCA guidelines have to be implemented fully," the minister said.

To questions, he said rules exist to deal with various issues, including drunken pilots, but these have to be implemented by all concerned.

The CASAC, which has been constituted for a period of one year, would review the existing regulatory framework and give recommendations to strengthen aviation safety.

It would examine and recommend incorporation of best regulatory practices, recommend short, medium and long term measures to enhance safety on all major aspects.

These include commercial and general aviation aircraft operations, heliports and aerodromes, air navigation services, air operator certification, maintenance and airworthiness of aircraft, certification of aeronautical products and human performance and training.

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