Saturday, August 15, 2020

Air India Express Plane Crash: Air Safety Experts Think Investigation Is A Cover-up Exercise

A section of aviation experts believes that truth will never come out of the Kozhikode air accident of August 7, in which an Air India Express flight from Dubai carrying 191 people, touched down the runway almost in the middle, continued running to its end amid heavy rain and fell down in the valley. Eighteen people, including both pilots, were killed in the horrific accident.

Five days after the accident, on August 13, Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) appointed Captain SS Chahar as an investigator-in-charge and four other aviation experts to assist him.

Though the independent safety experts have raised serious reservations on the competence of the investigator-in-charge and integrity of some of the team members, Group Captain Aurobindo Handa, DG, AAIB has dismissed these concerns as baseless.

Head of the probe team, Capt Chahar is a former examiner of Boeing 737 NG with erstwhile Jet Airways and his team members include – Ved Prakash (Operations Experts), Mukul Bhardwaj (Senior Aircraft Maintenance Engineer of B737), Group Capt YS Dahiya (Aviation Medicine Expert) and Jasbir Singh Larhga (Deputy Director. AAIB).

“What is the experience of Capt SS Chahar as an investigator? He has never investigated a single air accident ever. Why has he been appointed as an investigator-in-charge? For me, this investigation is a cover-up exercise,” SS Panesar, former Director, Flight Safety, Indian Airlines said.

He added, “In my opinion, a judicial inquiry should be conducted with various aviation experts as part of the team.”
Interestingly, Capt Chahar’s selection is in violation of AAIB’s minimum eligibility criteria for being appointed as an Air Safety Investigator. AAIB’s circular dated June 7, 2016, and available on the website of the Union Aviation Ministry, says that an air safety investigator should have minimum 25 years of experience in an air safety investigation, should have been a member of the transport aircraft accident investigations and should have undergone courses in aircraft accident investigations. Capt Chahar doesn’t have any of these qualifications.

However, DG, AAIB defends his decision and says that he chose Capt Chahar giving priority to his integrity over other things.
15/08/20 Jeevan Prakash Sharma/Outlook
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