The Indian aviation industry has witnessed remarkable growth in recent years, with major contributions from the civil aviation segment.
Currently the ninth largest in the world, the civil aviation market is anticipated to register more than 16 per cent growth between 2010-2013.
But this phenomenal expansion faced the inevitable challenge of insufficient safety apparatus. While we crowed over our burgeoning fleet size and airport ratings, we paid little attention to safety surveillance. "With the growth of aviation, it is essential to enhance safety systems. In India the reverse happened", alleged Sanat Kaul, Chairman of IFFAAD.
The result has been devastating: 158 passengers died in the Mangalore air crash, which safety advocates say was completely avoidable. But before blaming it all on the infrastructure, we need to consider the more appalling aspects of the problem.
Chronology: Air accidents in India
According to a DGCA report, pilot error caused the Mangalore crash. Data retrieved from the cockpit voice recorder shows that the captain was on the wrong flight path. Moreover, Captain Zlatko Glusica delayed in taking corrective measures, despite being requested by his co-pilot to go in for a "go-around".
Pilot error has been the leading cause of airline tragedies by a wide margin for many years. The Indian Commercial Pilot Association believes 78 per cent of all crashes have taken place due to human error.
On February 14, Yahoo! India News had carried the story of an Indigo pilot who just couldn’t land right. An inquiry conducted later by the Director General of Civil Aviation revealed that on 15 to 20 occasions, Captain Parminder Kaur Gulati had landed the aircraft at an angle indicating that the nose wheel may have touched the tarmac first.
Gulati was arrested on March 9 for allegedly using a forged marksheet to get a licence from the country’s airline regulator. The fake pilot licence scandal broke following Gulati’s arrest. So far, seven pilots have been nabbed.