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Aviation Safety And Accident Investigation

Societal concerns about aviation safety are as old as the flying industry itself. With the speedy growth of air transport in India, total commitment to passenger and crew safety cannot be dispensed with. This paper examines the statutes that govern aviation safety in India, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA)'s role in accident investigations and highlights improvement in safety standards through a review of major aviation accidents in India.

Laws Related to Aviation Safety in India:

There are robust and complex laws concerning aviation safety in India which comprise numerous statutes, regulations along with international conventions. The primary legislation includes the Aircraft Act, of 1934, and the Aircraft Rules, of 1937. These provide fundamental principles of aviation safety and operational regulation for civil aviation within the country's border.

  • The Aircraft Act, 1934: The core of Indian aviation safety regulation is the Aircraft Act, 1934, which approves the control and management of making and selling aircraft as well as their usage, operation, exportation, and importation. The act empowers the central government to make rules for ensuring the safety of aircraft operations, maintenance, and passengers' protection.
  • The Aircraft Rules, 1937: The Aircraft Rules, 1937, were promulgated under the Aircraft Act, 1934, in respect of airworthiness certification and operation licenses in addition to abiding by maintenance standards for an aircraft. These rules also deal with issues such as safety management systems, performing investigations, and mandatory reporting on incidents or accidents.
  • International Conventions: Various international agreements and conventions that India has endorsed have an impact on the country's aviation safety regulations. One such convention is the Chicago Convention, 1944, which brought into being the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and through it sets out the principles of international air navigation as well as requires member states to adopt and enforce safety standards and practices.
  • The Role of Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) in Accident Investigations: It is the top authority in Indian civil aviation ensuring its security and safety. DGCA developed its own policies, rules, and regulations for civil aviation, aircraft personnel certification, as well as control over air operations.

Accident Investigation:
The importance of DGCA in investigating air accidents and incidents cannot be underestimated. Indeed, the principal aim of a DGCA accident investigation is not to allocate culpability but rather to identify causes and establish preventive measures or controls. Additionally, The DGCA's Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) conducts separate investigations with safety recommendations.

Key Functions of the DGCA in Accident Investigation:

  • Notification and Reporting: The DGCA is responsible for the immediate notification and reporting of accidents to relevant authorities, including ICAO, as per Annex 13 of the Chicago Convention.
  • Investigation Process: The DGCA, through the AAIB, follows a systematic investigation process that includes site examination, evidence collection, data analysis, and consultation with stakeholders.
  • Safety Recommendations: Based on the findings of the investigation, the DGCA issues safety recommendations aimed at preventing future accidents. These recommendations may include changes to operational procedures, regulatory amendments, and improvements in training and technology.
  • Public Reporting: The DGCA ensures transparency by publishing detailed investigation reports and safety recommendations on its official website.

Case Studies of Major Aviation Accidents in India:

  • Case Study 1: Air India Express Flight IX-812 (2010):
    • Incident: On May 22, 2010, Air India Express Flight IX-812, a Boeing 737-800, crashed while landing at Mangalore International Airport, resulting in 158 fatalities.
    • Investigation Findings: The DGCA's investigation attributed the cause to pilot error, specifically the captain's failure to execute a go-around after an unstabilized approach.
    • Safety Recommendations: Recommendations included enhanced training for pilots on go-around procedures, stricter adherence to standard operating procedures (SOPs), and improved runway safety measures.
  • Case Study 2: Indian Airlines Flight 605 (1990):
    • Incident: On February 14, 1990, Indian Airlines Flight 605, an Airbus A320, crashed on its approach to Bangalore Airport, resulting in 92 fatalities.
    • Investigation Findings: The investigation revealed that the accident was caused by the crew's failure to adequately monitor the flight's altitude and speed during the approach phase.
    • Safety Recommendations: The DGCA recommended improvements in cockpit resource management (CRM) training, mandatory installation of ground proximity warning systems (GPWS), and revisions to approach procedures.
  • Case Study 3: Alliance Air Flight 7412 (2000):
    • Incident: On July 17, 2000, Alliance Air Flight 7412, a Boeing 737-200, crashed into a residential area near Patna Airport, resulting in 60 fatalities.
    • Investigation Findings: The DGCA's investigation concluded that the primary cause was pilot error, compounded by inadequate training and non-compliance with SOPs.
    • Safety Recommendations: Recommendations included enhanced training programs for pilots, stricter enforcement of SOPs, and periodic review of training curricula.
  • Case Study 4: Air India Flight 182 (1985):
    • Incident: On June 23, 1985, Air India Flight 182, a Boeing 747-237B, was destroyed by a bomb over the Atlantic Ocean, killing all 329 people on board.
    • Investigation Findings: The investigation, conducted by Canadian authorities with input from the DGCA, revealed that the bombing was a terrorist act executed by Sikh extremists.
    • Safety Recommendations: Recommendations focused on improving security measures, including enhanced passenger screening, stringent baggage checks, and international cooperation in counter-terrorism efforts.
  • Case Study 5: Sahara Airlines Flight S2-233 (2000):
    • Incident: On March 17, 2000, Sahara Airlines Flight S2-233, a Boeing 737-200, suffered a runway excursion during take-off at Patna Airport. There were no fatalities, but the aircraft was significantly damaged.
    • Investigation Findings: The DGCA investigated pilot error and adverse weather conditions as contributing factors.
    • Safety Recommendations: Recommendations included improved pilot training on adverse weather operations, better runway maintenance, and upgraded weather monitoring systems at airports.
  • Case Study 6: Kingfisher Airlines Flight IT-4124 (2009):
    • Incident: On November 15, 2009, Kingfisher Airlines Flight IT-4124, an ATR 72-500, made an emergency landing at Mumbai Airport due to a bird strike, resulting in a damaged engine but no fatalities.
    • Investigation Findings: The investigation found that the bird strike caused engine failure, but the crew's prompt response prevented a disaster.
    • Safety Recommendations: Recommendations focused on wildlife hazard management at airports, including the implementation of bird control measures and regular risk assessments.
  • Case Study 7: Air India Express Flight IX-1344 (2020):
    • Incident: On August 7, 2020, Air India Express Flight IX-1344, a Boeing 737-800, overshot the runway while landing at Kozhikode Airport in heavy rain, resulting in 21 fatalities.
    • Investigation Findings: The DGCA's investigation pointed to pilot error and adverse weather conditions as primary causes.
    • Safety Recommendations: Recommendations included reviewing airport runway safety protocols, enhancing pilot training for adverse weather conditions, and upgrading runway infrastructure.

Aviation safety in India has evolved significantly over the years, driven by a comprehensive legal structure and the diligent efforts of the DGCA. Despite the progress, each aviation accident serves as a stark reminder of the continuous need for vigilance, improvement, and adherence to safety protocols. The DGCA's role in accident investigation is pivotal in identifying causative factors and implementing preventive measures. By learning from past accidents and implementing robust safety recommendations, India can strive towards a safer and more secure aviation environment.

  1. Aircraft Act, 1934, Act No. 22 of 1934
  2. Aircraft Rules, 1937
  3. Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention), 1944
  4. Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), India
  5. Air India Express Flight IX-812 Accident Investigation Report, DGCA
  6. Indian Airlines Flight 605 Accident Investigation Report, DGCA
  7. Alliance Air Flight 7412 Accident Investigation Report, DGCA
  8. Air India Flight 182 Bombing Investigation Report, Canadian Aviation Safety Board
  9. Sahara Airlines Flight S2-233 Accident Investigation Report, DGCA
  10. Kingfisher Airlines Flight IT-4124 Accident Investigation Report, DGCA
  11. Air India Express Flight IX-1344 Accident Investigation Report, DGCA

Award Winning Article Is Written By: Mr.Shubhadip Ghatak,, BBA LLB, 4th Year - Christ Academy Institute Of Law, Bengaluru. Email Id- [email protected], Ph No: 6296580154
Awarded certificate of Excellence
Authentication No: JL419058180919-8-0724

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