• Air India failed an internal safety audit verified by the DGCA, which revealed significant lapses in the airline's operations.
  • The audit found that Air India falsified reports for all 13 safety checkpoints, with unauthorized signatures and non-compliance with mandated checks.
  • Investigations are ongoing to determine the extent of the safety oversight, and the consequences for Air India remain uncertain.

Air India recently got hit with quite a big blow after the flag carrier failed an internal safety audit upon further verification by a two-member surveillance team from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). During the routine exercise, the aviation regulator determined significant lapses and is currently investigating this matter with the airline.

Dropping by to verify

According to Air India, all airlines must undergo routine safety audits conducted by regulatory and external entities to uphold and improve aviation safety. The flag carrier also emphasizes that it always proactively participates in these audits to continuously evaluate and enhance its operational procedures, making it no surprise for the DGCA to drop by with a surveillance team.

Under this internal safety audit, a list of 13 checks on different aspects of Air India's operations is typically carried out, including but not limited to policy changes, ramp operations, loading management, cargo handling, maintenance, and cabin surveillance. This means the airline was mandated to conduct consistent safety spot checks on the specified 13 safety checkpoints and submit an inspection report to the DGCA.

Air India's Airbus A320neo taxiing at Mumbai Airport.
Photo: BoeingMan777 | Shutterstock

Upon review of the submitted report, the aviation regulator will then deploy a surveillance team for additional verification of the spot checks - which occurred on July 25th and 26th. It's worth noting that for this round's audit, neither Air India nor the DGCA detailed what the chosen list of safety checkpoints was.

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Allegedly failing all checkpoints

During the surveillance team's enhanced verification of the unspecified 13 safety checkpoints, the two men established that Air India had falsified reports for every station. The fabrication was noticed after the spot check reports did not bear the signature of the Chief of Flight Safety - the only officer who could sign off such statements.

These reports instead bore the signature of a Quality Management System Department auditor, who did not have the authority to do so as the department's standards fell outside the scope approved and inspected by the DGCA. It was also found that the Chief of Flight Safety did not delegate the authority to anyone else, as there were no email correspondence or authorization forms.

Air India Boeing 777-300ER taking off
Photo: AdityaChopra | Shutterstock

To make matters worse, the surveillance team's investigation subsequently revealed through CCTV footage, auditee statements, official records, and passenger manifests that the airline allegedly did not carry out the mandated regular checks. An example was the Pre-Flight Medical Examination, where alcohol consumption tests for pilots are conducted.

Although a physical visit was required because equipment details and test readings needed to be specified in Air India's report, it was discovered that Air India's internal auditor did not pay any visits to the facility. Without a visit, there would be no way of checking. And despite the lack of such details for verification, the airline still allegedly marked all items as satisfactory to assert compliance.

Investigations are underway

Another example concerned the cabin surveillance spot checks, which were supposed to have been conducted by Air India on July 16th. However, the DGCA surveillance team found that the supposed auditor who signed off on these checks was a flying passenger with family members on the said flight.

And when asked to provide the flight safety auditors' list to the surveillance team, the Star Alliance member could not produce one immediately. When it was finally delivered, the list only included auditors from the Quality Management Systems Department, all of whom were not stipulated by the aviation regulator's higher standards.

Close up of Air India A320 aircraft fuselage
Photo: Airbus

Given the alarming lapses found by the surveillance team from the DGCA, an investigation is undoubtedly already being carried out, as confirmed by the agency's Director General, Vikram Dev Dutt. As for the flag carrier, Air India highlights it will personally address these matters with the aviation regulator. But there's no telling as to what the consequences could be for such a severe safety oversight.

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Source: Live Mint

  • Tom Boon-200
    Air India
    IATA/ICAO Code:
    Airline Type:
    Full Service Carrier
    Delhi Indira Gandhi International Airport
    Year Founded:
    Star Alliance
    Campbell Wilson