The safety audit conducted by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation in 2012 found the Wadia group-promoted Go Air with the highest number of lapses, followed by Air India Express. "The audit team has made 112 observations about Go Air, which is the maximum number of safety lapses among the six carriers audited," said a senior DGCA official on the condition of anonymity. Air India Charters, which operates Air India Express, has the second highest number of lapses at 65. In the third place is Vijay Mallya's defunct Kingfisher with 36 safety issues, followed by Jet and Indigo with 23 safety issues each.
The safety assessment covers aspects such as operations, maintenance, security, commercial and ground support for the smooth functioning of an aircraft.
In its audit report of 2011, the DGCA had said that Go Air had very few trained pilots and that its engineering audit for 2010 was not carried out as planned. "Air India Express too was pulled up for safety issues in the previous audit," said the DGCA official. "Air India Express lacked pilots and cabin crew, proper and regular training, qualified safety officials and did not comply with safety audits," said the source.
When contacted, the Go Air spokesperson told The Sunday Guardian that the DGCA audit had not found anything related to the safety of their aircraft or operations: "Out of the total number of 53 observations spread across departments, most were related to documentation with suggestions for further improvement. The same were immediately corrected and action taken report was submitted to and accepted by DGCA. We always report all incidents and there is a constant flow of information to the DGCA authorities". About the inadequate number of trainer pilots, the spokesperson said that the matter was taken up with DGCA and required waiver was given to the airline. Go Air is currently outsourcing this requirement to the Airbus training facility. "Additionally, we are hiring instructors and examiners way above the requirement norms laid down by DGCA," the spokesperson noted.
"The DGCA has a team for preparing and monitoring the annual surveillance programme. A special division holds monthly reviews of the inspection carried out by each directorate and maintains a database of the findings. Once the report is prepared, they are sent to the concerned airlines. The enforcement of corrective action is then followed up," said the official. The 2011 safety audit had found out that some airlines had violated airworthiness standards and did not carry out regular maintenance checks of the aircraft. Some serious issues such as aircraft parts with corrosion deposits were found while ground support equipment was not in order.
The safety audit of SpiceJet is awaited. Air India went through International Air Transport Association's (IATA's) Operational Safety (IOSA) and received the IOSA certification, the first airline in the country and among the first 10 carriers in the world to have that certificate.
Air India Express refused to comment on the findings.