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India's aviation watchdog pulls up SpiceJet over safety lapses

·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: A SpiceJet Boeing 737 passenger aircraft takes off from Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel international airport in Ahmedabad

By Aditi Shah

NEW DELHI (Reuters) -India's aviation regulator has issued a warning notice to SpiceJet Ltd after a review of recent incidents by the watchdog showed "poor internal safety oversight and inadequate maintenance actions" by the airline.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said that a review of several incidents involving SpiceJet's planes since April 1 showed that "the aircraft either turned back to its originating station or continued landing to the destination with degraded safety margins".

On July 5 alone SpiceJet reported two mid-air problems.

In one incident, the side windshield outer pane of its Bombardier Q400 aircraft cracked mid-flight. In the second case, SpiceJet was forced to divert its Boeing 737 plane to Karachi in neighbouring Pakistan due to an indicator light malfunctioning. Both planes landed safely.

"The review transpires that poor internal safety oversight and inadequate maintenance actions has resulted in degradation of the safety margins," the DGCA said in its letter in which it has given the airline three weeks to respond.

"From the above it may be deducted that SpiceJet has failed to establish a safe, efficient and reliable air service," the watchdog said in its letter dated July 5 which was made public by India's civil aviation ministry on Twitter on Wednesday.

SpiceJet, whose shares fell to their lowest since March 2020 in morning trade, said it is committed to ensuring a safe operation for its passengers and crew.

"We have been regularly audited by DGCA. All our aircraft were audited a month ago by the regulator and found to be safe," the company said, adding that all its flights are conducted in compliance with aviation regulations.

In September, during a financial review of the airline, the DGCA found that SpiceJet's suppliers were not being paid regularly leading to a shortage of spares.

The regulator did not name the suppliers and the company did not provide direct comment on the issue.

"Passenger safety is paramount," India's civil aviation minister, Jyotiraditya Scindia, said on Twitter.

"Even the smallest error hindering safety will be thoroughly investigated and course-corrected," he said.

Shares of the Indian budget carrier have fallen 43.4% so far this year, compared to a 17.6% fall in rival Interglobe Aviation.

(Reporting by Aditi Shah, additional repoting by Chris Thomas in Bengaluru, Editing by Louise Heavens)

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