Sunday, May 13, 2018

Spike in snags makes flying turbulent

Instances of flights getting held up by ‘technical snags’ at various airports are happening with alarming regularity, leaving hapless fliers to wait out the long delays. Worryingly, these snags have seen a sharp spike in the last few years. There were a total of 15,048 such instances in 2014; last year, the figure shot up to 24,791, a jump of almost 65 per cent, according to data from the civil aviation ministry.

Although the number of flights has increased over the years to accommodate the growing passenger traffic, the spike in the technical snag count is way higher than the rise in the number of aircraft, sources said. The number of aircraft has risen from 409 in 2014 to 548 last year. According to civil aviation ministry officials, a ‘technical snag’ was a condition in an aircraft or an aircraft component arising from any cause other than damage, which would preclude it or another component from performing its intended functions.

Giving examples, an official said, “It could be an engine shutdown in flight because of foreign object ingestion or flame-out; defect in the propeller feathering system; defect in landing-gear extension or retraction or opening and closing of landing-gear doors during flight; or defect in brake system components leading to loss of brake-actuating force when the aircraft is in motion on the ground.”

Such snags could occur during the normal course of operation of an aircraft but operators had to take the onus for monitoring and rectifying them, the official said. “Technical snags can occur in aircraft but cases, where there are too many snags, should always be looked into. It may be due to old engines or machines,” an official of Air India’s engineering department said.

Civil aviation ministry data show that Jet Airways aircraft suffered the maximum number of technical snags last year—as many as 9,689 of the overall count of 24,791. Specifically, Boeing 737 NG aircraft operated by Jet Airways reported 6,535 snags. Jet Airways could not be contacted for comment despite several efforts by The Sunday Standard. Ministry officials said the Directorate General of Civil Aviation had issued clear guidelines for monitoring snags or defects encountered during aircraft operations.
13/05/18 Kumar Vikram/New Indian Express