Government inquiries that venture uncomfortably close to uncovering any embarrassing facts often get hasty burials. But, here’s a case of two fake probe reports that one of the investigators even refused to endorse, and, consequently, they were consigned to the grave.
The matter pertains to two cases of near miss-cum-go-around scrutinised by aviation officials. Sources say members of the Air Investigation Team (AIT) did not even bother to conduct an inquiry into (see box) the two incidents — that took place on October 16 and November 18 last year — for the first five months. They were reportedly shaken out of their slumber only after orders from director (operations), Directorate General of Civil Aviation, Manoj Bokade. Thereafter, the panel hurriedly conducted a probe and prepared two reports, which three of the members — two joint general managers of Airports Authority of India and a deputy director of DGCA — signed.
However, the fourth AIT member — a deputy general manager, aviation safety with AAI — challenged the authenticity of the reports.
The official refused to support the findings as obligatory AIT meetings were never conducted and the documents were prepared without any dates on them. The dissenter also maintained that the pilots were held culpable in the reports but no information was given to the respective airlines about this to gather feedback or explanation from those pilots.
MiD DAY is in possession of the aforementioned AIT reports, which have no mention of the dates when the team met and they also do not have the signature of one of the four panel members. As stated earlier, they also lack any testimonials of the pilots who have been blamed.
Sources at Mumbai DGCA and AAI also told this newspaper that the investigation reports, as per protocol, should reach the headquarters (of both DGCA and AAI) in Delhi for drafting of a final report. The apprehensive AIT allegedly suppressed its dossiers here in Mumbai.
When MiD DAY contacted joint general manager of AAI and member of AIT Soran Singh to determine whether any investigation was ever conducted or not, he said, “I am only a member of AIT and all probes are conducted and compiled by AK Meena. I don’t want to comment on anything. If you have queries ask Mr Meena.”
We spoke with AK Meena, joint general manager with AAI and another AIT member. “Firstly, I am not able to recollect anything about this matter, and I feel I would not be able to give you any information in this regard,” he told us.
Two other AIT members, Suvrita Saxena — deputy director, DGCA — and S Mangala — DGM (aviation safety), AAI — could not be reached for comments despite repeated attempts.
When contacted, Manoj Bokade, director (operations), DGCA — who asked for the two cases to be investigated by AIT — said, “I would check with the official concerned about the status of inquiry in these two cases.”
General Manager (Mumbai) ATC Jayant Dasgupta, said, “Since I am not associated with AIT, I would not be able to comment on this.”
AK Khanna, deputy director general, DGCA (western region), who was out of town, refused to speak on the matter.
‘Two’ close for comfort
>> October 16, 2011: SpiceJet flight SEJ 874D had to conduct a go-around in the last few seconds of landing after observing Kingfisher flight KFR 3184 lined up for takeoff. This situation arose due to a flawed decision by ATC, which despite poor weather conditions allowed two landings to come to 6 nautical miles and then organised a departure in between. Tape transcript of the incident (available with this newspaper) finds the SpiceJet pilot mentioning the tower controller, probably to a colleague, saying, “I don’t know why he has given Kingfisher takeoff clearance. I think I will file a report on this.”
>> November 18: JetLite flight JLL 175 Bangalore-Mumbai had to go-around in the last few seconds of landing after it observed Etihad Airways flight ETD 938 (Mumbai-Abu Dhabi) lined up for takeoff. In this incident the spacing between two arrivals were 6.5 nautical miles but the ATC made the situation risky after putting a departure in between. The sources in the Mumbai ATC told this newspaper that in such case the spacing between the two landings should have been at least 8 nautical miles. Tape transcript available with this newspaper has the JetLite pilot telling the tower controller, “Sir, that was a very close call. I think the tower should not have allowed ETD to line up.” JetLite was just 1.75 nautical miles away from touchdown when it decided to conduct a go-around.