SpiceJet and Air India were fined Rs 30 lakh each by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Wednesday for flouting fog-preparedness rules. The airlines were held guilty of not having rostered CAT III trained pilots who can fly in low visibility conditions ahead of the cold season.
The DCGA in a statement said it holds a meeting every year with aviation stakeholders before the start of the fog season to assess preparedness for low visibility operations. The latest meeting was held in the DGCA headquarters on November 6, 2023, where instructions were given to airlines on the rostering of CAT II/III qualified pilots.
However, the data on flight delays/cancellations/diversions submitted by airlines for December 2023 showed that Air India and SpiceJet did not roster such pilots for some flights, said the DGCA.
Afterwards, show-cause notices were sent to both airlines on January 2, but their reply on the matter was unsatisfactory. After their “unsatisfactory” reply, Air India and SpiceJet were held guilty of violating norms, resulting in penalties, added the aviation watchdog.
Category III (CAT-III) refers to a set of international standards for precision instrument approach and landing in adverse weather conditions. It involves advanced autopilot and ground equipment that enables aircraft to land in very low visibility conditions, such as dense fog or heavy rain.
Earlier in the day, Union Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia was engaged in a war of words with Congress MP Shashi Tharoor over the recent complaints by passengers on flight delays and cancellations.
The Congress MP alleged that the Aviation Ministry and the DGCA failed to ensure that airlines have sufficient numbers of CAT III qualified pilots. “Further, it did not even ensure that pilots planning to fly to Delhi during fog conditions were CAT III-B trained. Therefore, multiple flights were diverted to cities like Jaipur and Ahmedabad,” he added.
In response, Scindia called Tharoor’s claim incorrect and baseless. The Civil Aviation minister said the DGCA mandates airlines to deploy CAT IIIB compliant aircraft “only with qualified crew” during winter. Taking the example of SpiceJet and Air India, Scindia added that any violations are strictly dealt with by the DGCA.