Friday, September 9, 2011

How safe are we in the “Open Skies”

Air Marshal Ashok Goel (Retd.)
Former Director General Flight Safety & Inspection, IAF
11, Silver State, Pilibhit Byepass Road,
Bareilly-243005 (U.P.) INDIA
Mob: 9411900090, 09999722636

How safe are we in the “Open Skies”

Aviation is an advent of move then 100 yrs old. Till early nineties there were only two players on the Indian Aviation scene. Air India & Indian Airlines. But today India’s aviation sector is on the threshold of unprecedented expansion, but its infrastructure is woefully unprepared to handle the growth in air craft. If the order placed at the recently concluded Paris air show are any indications Kingfisher & Jet, the two market leaders in India, will lead a surge in aircraft acquition in the coming years. The numbers of aircraft in Indian skies are now about 320, expected to grow to 500 by 2012 and all estimates indicate this number to reach 1000 by 2020.

While only 15 million passengers, a little more than the number of people who use the rail network in a single day, traveled by air in 2003-04, the figure was almost 15 million in 2005-06 (five times that of 2003-04). This number is expected is grow substantially and rapidly.

There are 449 airports / air strips in the country. Among these the AAI owns and manages 92 airports and 28 civil enclaves at defence airfields and provides air traffic service over the entire Indian airspace and adjoining oceanic areas. 52 % of the traffic was handled at the international airports at Mumbai & Delhi. It may be of interest that only .02% of the population has so far access to the facility of air craft travel.

Our economy is growing at 9% and the aviation boom is recording a growth of 25%. Unfortunately infrastructure is crawling, rendering flaying in India a nightmare. Aircraft acquition is a faster option but to create infrastructure like modern airports, airport facilities, air space management manpower to man these facilities is time consuming. More important “quality manpower creation” to ensure optimization of the resources. Also experienced personnel to fly these machines “Professionally and safely”. Remember for aviation activity each and every member of the team has to be in a “highly skilled category” even the loader who loads the baggage.

In the process of utilizing high cost acquitions the airlines may compromise on important factor of “Human Resource” QR’S.
The agencies like, Ministry of Civil Aviation, DGCA, Airlines Managements will have to be more conscious of these facts.
Some of the issues which are often seen as a matter of concern:-
(a) Seventy percent of the flights that take off or land in
Delhi are delayed.
(b) Tyre bursts skids and random mishaps with alarming
regularity set in longer delay as airports are unable to defuse crises swiftly.
(c) On 9 April for instance, 13000 passengers booked for
100 flights were delayed by one to three hrs in Delhi because main runway was blocked by an immobilized AI a/c.
(d) Run way relays - peak hour landing and takeoffs is just 30/35 at Iv1umbai & Delhi. Where as at busy international airports (Kennedy /Hethrow / Athens) average is 60/65.
(e) Terminal sickness - waiting long hrs in million:-
Delhi cap / handling 14/23
Mumbai cap/handling 14/25.5
Chennai cap /handling 7.7/10.1
Calcutta cap / handling 4.9/6.9
(f) Air Pocket:- Rickety infrastructure and scramble for market share through predatory pricing and fleet expansion are bleeding airlines despite the boom.
- The airlines industry losses for the year 2006-2007 expected Rs. 2500 Crore.
- Annual losses of USD 80 million due to infrastructure deficit.
- USD 500 million due to A TF. These are passed on to passenger. (Rs. 750/- congestion charges to passenger).
- High taxes make A TF 60% Costlier in India.

(g) Close shaves: - The high level of overall tension in the
operating environment has increased the rate of near mishaps.
- N ear misses / mid air collisions - 2 every month since 2005.
- Bird hits nearly 2 a month.
(h) Cattle Class: - Passenger often spend more time on the
runway or at airport lounges then actual flying time.
(i) Pilots Crunch: - has lead to compromises on having
(ii) foreign pilots/increasing the flying age / lowering the standards of command and overall cockpit experience. Not wanting to adhere to the international norms of FDTL.

The growing competition, hasty growth needs to be regulated and monitored by all closely. So that the growth of civil aviation does not grow into an unsafe and unhealthy activity. Otherwise the civil aviation boom is in the right direction.
Random thoughts:-
- Aviation Day - The day JRD took the first flight from Drig Road Karachi to Bombay.
- Greater Role of regularity bodies.
- Systemic development of training facilities to meet the requirement of manpower (Bodies like AICTE/MCI etc may be within DGCA).
- Infrastructure development- Participation of "Private Sector".
- Centralized Airport services on the lines of DNA TA of Dubai.
- Do not compromise on standards and quality of people, stakes are high.
- Objective should be only TQP - "Total Quality People".

As analyzed in mid 2008

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