Tuesday, March 20, 2018

How VVIP Planes Are Being Compromised At A Hangar In Maharashtra's Gondia

New Delhi:  The jets used to ferrying the rich and famous across the world may be compromising their security heavily in India, at least by one company that runs them in India. In a week that that has seen Airbus NEOs being grounded because of a faulty engine, Embraer jets which fly VVIPs like Home Minister Rajnath Singh, BJP President Amit Shah, Congress President Rahul Gandhi and Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari have been found by NDTV to have been stripped down for a major routine overhaul or MRO in Gondia in Maharashtra. The nondescript location does not figure in the Brazilian company's list of authorised service centres.

Pictures accessed by NDTV show how an Embraer Lineage owned by the company Air One has been opened up in a hangar at Gondia. The company, owned by a former Sahara CEO called Alok Sharma, carries out its own maintenance for all the three Embraers it owns. One of their planes was used on Thursday by Nitin Gadkari to fly to Nagpur and the other clients also include Hero MotoCorp's Pawan Munjal apart from politicians. While they say they have clearance from Directorate General of Civil Aviation, which is the local authority to clear such maintenance works, since it is a matter of prime safety, the paper work doesn't quite add up.
To give a comparison of how these fancy planes which have bedrooms and sitting rooms on board are maintained by other owners, one only has to look to the Indian Air Force which has a number of these aircraft. NDTV has learnt that for their third line inspection which is a term used for stripping the aircraft, and which is needed every 96 months or 4800 hours, an environment so sanitary is required, that the IAF flies them to Brazil for such an inspection. This is being achieved by Air One in a hangar in Gondia, an airport which was hauled up by the Comptroller and Auditor General in 2016 for being developed even though no flights go there.
When NDTV contacted Embraer, its communications manager Nilma Boissac confirmed that Embraer did not have Gondia in its list of authorised service centres. When NDTV asked how then were they allowing this aircraft to be opened up here, they said, "It requires DGCA clearance."

Alok Sharma told NDTV they have all the required certification and shared the DGCA certificate with us. The certificate issued on February 1 gives a one-time approval for the Lineage 1000 aircraft to be fixed in Gondia but only till May and under conditions that they have the right tools and conditions as set by the manufacturers. "Gondia is special as it has one of the largest Hangar and one of the very few places in the country which can accommodate such aircraft," explained Alok Sharma of Air One, citing DGCA as having given them the certificate to do so.
20/03/18 Sunetra Choudhury/NDTV