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AAIB to probe SpiceJet Durgapur flight 'accident' after flyers are injured

DGCA has already carried out a preliminary probe and has initiated inspection of SpiceJet's entire fleet

AAIB | SpiceJet | flight

Aneesh Phadnis  |  Mumbai 

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The Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) will carry out a probe into SpiceJet’s Mumbai-Durgapur that encountered severe turbulence on Sunday evening.The occurrence is being categorised an ‘accident’ in accordance with the International Civil Aviation Organization norms, given two passengers suffered serious injuries and had to be admitted to the intensive care units of hospitals in Durgapur. Fifteen others were discharged after treatment.

A formal order on the probe is yet to be issued. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) carried out a preliminary probe and initiated an inspection of SpiceJet’s entire fleet.

Executives from airworthiness, air safety, and operations departments conducted checks to ensure appropriate maintenance is being carried out on all aircraft.

Separately, the DGCA issued a show cause notice to the head of safety of SpiceJet, following the Sunday event.

A Boeing 737-800 aircraft from SpiceJet’s fleet carrying 195 passengers encountered severe turbulence, before landing in Durgapur.

As is customary, pilots are briefed about weather before departure and receive alerts from air traffic control and on-board weather radars.

A source said the aircraft involved in the incident had the older version of the weather radar that required pilots to manually adjust settings for updates, increasing their workload.

A new-generation weather radar, in contrast, automatically scans the airspace ahead for turbulent weather, reducing crew workload.

The pilot of aircraft is also reported to have told investigators that he deviated from the assigned route to avoid turbulence. The same will be investigated, it is learnt.

In a statement, said that the pilot saw turbulent weather patches well in time and did the required course correction to stay away from the weather he detected on the radar.

“The track he chose was to keep the aircraft a safe distance from turbulent weather seen on the radar,” clarified .

The airline added that the particular aircraft’s weather radar had a manual tilt setting that pilots used to see weather above and below their flight levels.

“This feature is common to all weather radars, including the latest models. All pilots are well-trained to use this weather radar. They do so regularly and effectively to avoid turbulent weather,” it noted.

SpiceJet said all its 737 MAX aircraft are equipped with the latest version of the weather radar and both pilots had been trained for monsoon operations.

Each year between April and end-June, eastern India witnesses thunderstorm activity. Known as the Nor’westers, these consist of fast-moving thunderstorm clouds.

“Budding pilots are taught in pilot training schools to steer clear of these thunderstorm clouds. Most airlines allow pilots to uplift additional fuel for deviation or hold, so as to keep away from clouds. The DGCA has laid down procedures that airlines need to follow during monsoon,” said aviation safety expert Captain Amit Singh.

Last June, a Vistara Boeing 737 aircraft on the Mumbai-Kolkata route had encountered similar turbulence, resulting in serious injuries to two passengers.

“The investigated that incident and issued a set of recommendations to prevent a repeat of it. The regulator must first check if the recommendations are being implemented by airlines,” added Singh.

mandate on ‘events’

The Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) investigates accidents and serious incidents inv­olving aircraft. The classification of an ‘event’ is in accord­ance with the International Civil Aviation Organization norms. An ‘event’ can be classified an accident if there is fatal or serious injury to a pass­enger(s) or if the aircraft suffers damage or structural failure.

For example, an incident of a Cessna 185 Skywagon toppling at Jakkur Aerodrome in Bengaluru last month is being probed by AAIB since it caused damage to the aircraft.

SpiceJet plane aborts take-off

A SpiceJet aircraft operating on the Mumbai- Kishangarh route rejected take-off and returned to the parking bay due to a technical glitch on Tuesday. Another aircraft was arranged to operate the flight and departed at 3.25 pm, said a spokesperson for SpiceJet.

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First Published: Tue, May 03 2022. 20:26 IST