Two senior AirAsia officials suspended after former pilot flags safety violation

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation has suspended two senior executives of AirAsia India for a period of three months for allegedly violating safety guidelines, PTI reported on Tuesday. The suspension was carried out a week ago, the aviation regulator said.

“We had issued a show cause notice to two AirAsia India executives – Head of Operations Manish Uppal and Head of Flight Safety Mukesh Neema – in June only,” a DGCA official told the news agency. “It has been decided now to suspend them for a period of three months.”

Director General of Civil Aviation Arun Kumar too confirmed the development to The Times of India.

The incident had come to light in June after one of AirAsia’s former pilots, Gaurav Taneja, had alleged violations of safety norms by the low-cost carrier on his popular YouTube channel called Flying Beast. In the 27-minute video, Tanjea claimed the airline had been flouting safety norms in order to cut fuel costs.

On June 14, the pilot in a tweet said AirAsia India had suspended him for “for standing up for safe operations of an aircraft and its passengers”. A day later, Taneja posted a video on YouTube titled “Reasons behind suspension from my pilot job”, in which he gave a detailed account of why he was sacked by the airline.

On June 26, Taneja was fired by AirAsia India following an inquiry into disciplinary charges against him. The inquiry was conducted by airline officials, including Neema, Taneja’s lawyer Yeshwant Shenoy told the newspaper.

After Taneja’s tweet and videos went viral on the social network, the DGCA on June 15, took cognisance of the concerns raised by the pilot and said it was starting an investigation into the matter. Later in June, the aviation authority issued a show cause notice to Uppal and Neema along with the chief executive officer of the airline, according to The Times of India.

Reacting to the DGCA’s decision to suspend the AirAsia officials, Taneja on Monday tweeted that “All the ‘safety experts’ who were acting as PR agents of AirAsiaIndia , you are caught with your pants down.”

Safety violation charges against the airline

In his video, Taneja had alleged that AirAsia has asked its pilots to do 98% of landings in “Flap3 mode”, which allows an aircraft to consume less fuel. He claimed the airline considers any disobedience to the directive as a violation of its standard operating procedure.

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“In order to achieve targets, what would people do? They will do Flap 3 landings without giving consideration whether it is safe or unsafe,” he said. “This directly impacts the passenger safety. If something happens during a Flap 3 landing, then the question would be asked to the pilot if he or she cares more about saving fuel or 180 passengers.”

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