Monday, January 4, 2010

Is meeting deadline responsible for ILS glitch

The glitch in the runway visual range (RVR) component of the instrument landing system (ILS) which guides flight path during landing in dense fog may have developed due to a last-minute mad rush to meet Commonwealth Games deadline.

Preliminary probe into the major safety lapse has shockingly revealed that the Met department had on December 23 or 24 written to the airport management to rectify the cable problem that had rendered the ILS unusable. However, no heed was paid to this as the airport management was too busy chasing the completion deadline for the upcoming integrated terminal III (T3).

‘‘Work on T3 suffered earlier due to paucity of funds which was later raised by levying steep user development fees on outbound passengers. Now there is a rush to meet the deadline but in an operational airport, safety issues should get priority over everything else,’’ said a senior official probing the fiasco.

While work is now on at a frantic pace to rectify the problem in both the new and main runways, the erring service provider could face harsh punishment under newly revised Aircraft rules.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) issues licenses to agencies like Met department, Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL and AAI for providing essential aviation services.

About two months ago, four levels of punishments were introduced that included Rs 10 lakh fine and/or up to two years imprisonment, Rs 5 lakh fine and/or a year’s jail, Rs 2 lakh and/or six month’s jail and Rs 1 lakh and/or three month’s incarceration.

DGCA is likely to take a call on which service providers are guilty of deficiency of service and what level of punishment they should get. Although it’s the first lapse on part of the service provider and should invite a lower level of punishment, the severity of the lapse will also play a role in deciding the penalty.

DGCA has decided to subject all airport operators, private or AAI run and ATC services to intense scrutiny to ensure 100% compliance with all regulations. Top government sources said that a notice is likely to be issued to DIAL to explain the lapse in restoring the cable that enables aircraft movement during fog. What has irked the regulator especially is the fact that some key people supposed to be responsible for running the place were on vacation when all hell broke loose there on Saturday and it was left to South African Andrew Harrison, chief operating officer, to oversee the salvage operation on DIAL’s part.