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Govt may consider separate body to probe air crashes: Patel

Last Updated: Sunday, May 23, 2010 - 23:51

New Delhi: Government may consider
setting up a separate body to investigate air accidents in
line with the US National Transportation Safety Board, in view
of Saturday`s air crash in Mangalore that claimed 158 lives.

"We will be looking at this aspect (setting of an
independent body to investigate accidents) very meaningfully.
... We will look at, may be a different, an independent
regulator for this purpose," Civil Aviation Minister Praful
Patel told a private news channel tonight.

His comments came when he was asked whether the
government could consider establishing an independent body to
probe accidents, like the NTSB that investigates all major
accidents in the US including air crashes or accidents at sea
or on highways.

Replying to questions on the Air India Express crash,
Patel did not rule out a human error factor but made it clear
that the report of the inquiry being conducted by the
Directorate General of Civil Aviation should be awaited before
coming to any conclusion.

"You cannot rule out a human error factor. Certainly
all parameters looked normal for a normal touchdown," he said.

To a question on his offer to resign during his
meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last night, Patel
said it was an "emotional moment ... I accepted it (the crash)
as a moral responsibility ... At the end of the day, I am the
head of the civil aviation family.

"But at the same time, irrespective of who is
responsible and whether it is necessary for a Minister to say
that I am accountable or not, the fact is I personally felt
very bad. I was upset about the whole thing. .... There is no
logical answer to an emotional situation".

Patel also said he had spoken to the DGCA to go into
issues relating to small and difficult airports so that new
policy formulations could be evolved in view of the peculiar
problems there.

Asked about a "complete revamp" of Air India Express
as all managerial positions were "part-time", he said "yes, if
that is the case, it will be done. And also the fact is that
it cannot be said that it is completely headless. After all,
it is a 100 per cent subsidiary of Air India."

"We will look at further strengthening of the
management set-up of the Air India Express," Patel said.

Commenting on the claims of the Indian Commercial
Pilots Association that problem lies with expat pilots, Patel
said, "Do Indian pilots not go and work overseas? The answer
is they do. Many countries, many airlines across the world
hire pilots. Please let us not get into this unnecessary
debate. I do not wish to comment on the pilot fraternity."

To a question that whether this debate was not valid,
he said, "I think as long as pilot is technically qualified to
fly and DGCA has certified a person to fly in India. I think
let us not challenge the competence and technical competence
of DGCA. If we don`t have faith in our regulatory
institution, who are we going to rely on. I would not like to
be dragged in this unnecessary debate."

To a question will there be a comprehensive review of
airports, he said that he discussed it with DGCA yesterday in
the night that airports where it is found that "such issues"
could be of concern should "certainly" be looked into.

He however, immediately made it clear that this was
not to raise an "alarm bell". "I don`t want people in the
country to feel that overnight flying is unsafe."


First Published: Sunday, May 23, 2010 - 23:51

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