Air travel is considered to be the safest, but, if something untoward happens, it is the deadliest. Hence, we cannot take aviation safety for granted, especially in the backdrop of some of the recent mishaps, including the mysterious disappearance of the Malaysian Airlines flight (MH370) in March 2014 and the crash of the Air Asia flight QZ8501 in the Java Sea in December 2014.
The cause of the Air Asia flight crashing into the sea is still to be ascertained, with inclement weather currently suspected to have been responsible, but questions are now being raised as to whether Asia’s rapidly expanding airlines are going easy on safety regulations in order to cater to the growing demand for flights.
In the case of the crash of an Air-India flight in Mangalore in 2010, pilot error is also suspected to be a cause. The Serbian pilot failed to act on his
co-pilot’s warnings. The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines MH370 is also suspected to be the result of the pilot’s actions. It has been pointed out by aviation experts that most Asian countries do not have sufficient number of schools to provide airlines with pilots, and the airlines have no alternative other than turning to expatriate pilots from Europe and the US. This opens the possibility for greater error. The integration of diverse cockpit crew is often a ‘big management challenge,’ according to experts.
Even more disturbing is the present plight of India. The bad news is that, in March 2014, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) downgraded
India’s aviation safety rating, citing lack of safety standards, which means that Indian carriers cannot increase flights to the United States and will have to face extra checks for the existing ones. The American aviation regulator conducted a fresh safety audit of DGCA from December 8, 2014. The
result of this will determine India’s safety rating, after having downgraded it from the top Category-I to Category-II.
All this points to the fact that all is not well with aviation safety, especially in the case of Asia in general and countries like India in particular. The
amazing increase in the number of private players in the field and increasing preference of people for air travel is putting more pressure on aviation
safety. Moreover, the advent of the most advanced technologies is making the pilot very subservient to the automatic systems available in the cockpit for easy navigation rather than his skills and personal judgement.
The global aviation sector has been witnessing drastic and fast-paced changes of late with the advent of new concepts and technology innovations,
e-commerce, and open-sky policy. However, the alarming reality is that while the new concepts and technological advancements are being adopted by
prominent international regulatory authorities, they do not find a place in our country. It is high time we changed for the better.
We have made all efforts to give you in-depth articles from eminent and experienced aviation professionals like Mr Mohan Chandran in the current
issue of Safety Messenger. We look forward to your critical comments.