Neo engine row: HC tells DGCA to apply mind before giving clearance
“DGCA should apply its mind irrespective of foreign certification to check if the aircraft are airworthy. That is our concern,” said a division bench of justices Naresh Patil and Girish Kulkarni. “The certification should be given only after a thorough check up. You are not bound by any international certification. You should decide the airworthiness depending on the Indian conditions including the climate,” the bench told the DGCA.
The court was hearing a public interest litigation filed by businessman Harish Agarwal that had sought the grounding of all engines powering Airbus A320 Neo aircraft. In February, the European Air Safety Authority (EASA) had raised red flags about the A320 neo engines. Since March 12, the DGCA had ordered the grounding of around 14 A320 Neo planes fitted with faulty Pratt & Whitney 1100 engines with serial numbers above 450.
The court was informed that all aircraft that were grounded were back in operation after the engines were replaced.
“All safety measures are in place and necessary precautions have been taken. The Union government and the DGCA are fully satisfied with the steps taken,” additional solicitor general Anil Singh told the bench. “The DGCA conditions are more stringent than other organisations including the EASA. While the EASA allowed aircraft with one post 450 engine, DGCA went a step further and disallowed it. Not a single post 450 engine has been allowed to be in the air. We are allowing the aircraft to operate only after the engine has been replaced and certified. The malfunction in the pre-450 series has also been addressed,” Singh said. To a query from the judge, the advocate said that all the modified engines had been certified for airworthiness. The bench was also informed that it takes about eight hours to replace the engines on the aircraft. There was, however, some confusion with regard to the exact serial numbers of the replaced engines.
Advocate Aniruddha Deo, counsel for the petitioner, said there were inconsistencies in the DGCA’s affidavit and it had not addressed all the concerns raised in the PIL.
The advocate referred to a letter from Union government to DGCA in 2017 that A320 Neo engines were not operating properly due to harsh climatic conditions in India. The court has scheduled the PIL for further hearing on June 11.