Safety concerns rekindled for AI's A-320 fleet!

9 Sep 2015 | By Ankita

After the incident of 7 September, the pilot-association's issues of safety for the old Airbus-320 fleet of Air-India have surfaced again.

This has triggered a debate regarding safety-concerns for passengers who have been complaining for a while.

Union Minister, Mahesh Sharma has refuted charges that Air-India was flying "faulty aircrafts" by ratifying that the incident did not take place due to "safety issues".

In context: Growing concerns for Air-India's ageing fleet!

BackgroundA brief history of A-320's journey in India!

The first batch of Airbus A-320 started joining Indian-Airlines in 1989.

After one of the planes from A-320 fleet crashed in Bengaluru in 1990, the fleet was grounded following debates over "fly-by-wire" technology.

These planes were finally cleared to fly again for Air-India in December 1990.

Currently, Air-India has seven Airbus A-320 in its fleet which are more than 20 years old.

The Airbus A-320 family

The Airbus A-320 family are short-mediam range, narrow-body commercial passenger twin-engine jet airlines which includes A-319, A-320 and A-321 aircrafts. Air-India has only 52 aircrafts available for use inspite of having a fleet of 64 in the A-320 family.
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15 Mar 2015A-320 faces wheel-snag!

Air-India's first batch of Airbus A-320 (26-year-old) flight from Delhi to Vadodara flew back to Delhi on an emergency landing as it faced a wheel-snag.

The 1989 made aircraft's left-side main landing-gear got stuck.

The crew operating the A-320 fleet have been complaining about its low-functionality for a long time.

The reported problems were problematic weather-radar, non-functional auxiliary power and probability of hydraulic failure.

25 Mar 2015Withered aircraft crashes

A 24-year-old German Airbus-320 crashed in the French Alps on a flight from Barcelona to Dusseldorf.

Almost all lives were lost in the plane-crash.

The age of the aircraft which crashed, raised safety concerns and arguments began about Air-India's A-320 fleet, some of which age upto 26 year old.

AI flies the oldest Airbus A-320's in the world and therefore were subjected to debates.

29 Mar 2015Pilot-union raises safety warnings!

The Indian Commercial Pilot's-Association(ICPA) from Indian-Airlines and Air-India had raised several crucial questions complaining about the 26-year-old Airbus A-320's to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation(DGCA) Chief, M Sathiyavathi.

According to ICPA, the A-320's "are operated with repetitive snags endangering flight safety" and therefore, DGCA should not permit the operation of such "lethal snag-prone" aircrafts.

AI maintained that the aircrafts are certified and safe.

7 Sep 2015Injuries caused while emergency landing of Airbus-320

The Airbus A320 aircraft of Air-India (AI) which operated the flight AI-405 from Varanasi with 149 passengers onboard developed a hydraulic problem enroute.

Keeping with safety-rules, an emergency landing at Indira Gandhi International Airport (Delhi) was followed by an evacuation program.

After the emergency-landing, one of the wheels had caught fire.

Amidst the panic and rush during the evacuation-program, 5-7 passengers sustained minor injuries.

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9 Sep 2015Safety concerns rekindled for AI's A-320 fleet!

Solutions-IBetter planning is the need of the hour!

Aviation regulator, DGCA has yet denied any fault on the part of Air-India in continuing to fly old planes ratifying that they are air-worthy.

It has ordered a detailed investigation on the incident of 7 September.

Air-India's Chairman, MD Ashwani Lohani should immediately review maintenance and safety protocol of the Airbus A-320 fleet.

Lohani had already laid out some plans regarding the same, previously.

Solutions-IIWhat is to be done?

Lohani has asked engineering staff to ensure that atleast four more Airbus-320 family aircraft are made available by the end of this month so that old planes can be discarded.

He has tasked engineering subsidiary AIESL to draw a plan of spending $300 million raised through ECB's to be deployed in maintenance of AI's fleet.

He also wants a thorough plan for Nagpur's MRO-unit.

The failed turaround plan!

As per the turnaround plan of the government, Air-India should have 72 narrow-body aircrafts in its fleet by now. It has been looking to lease 19 (including 8 A-320's) but 14 of these may arrive only by 2017 which is too late.