Concerns over the safety oversight of financially struggling Kingfisher Airlines continue, even as the fleet–once 64 aircraft strong–has now shrunk to six A320s and five ATR 72s. The fleet reduction, driven largely by non-payment of leases, comes as a portion of the company’s pilots took strike action on August 18 to protest more than six months of back wages owed them by Kingfisher. On August 27 India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), in a seemingly benign action that critics claim was taken to protect the ailing airline, renamed a Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR) previously titled, “Assessment of Impact of Financial Stress on Safety of Operations,” to a version removing any reference to an airline’s financial health during safety evaluations.
Just last month, DGCA chief Bharat Bhushan was unceremoniously ousted from his position by Indian civil aviation minister Ajit Singh, allegedly over his willingness to take on Kingfisher’s safety issues.The Indian media published letters from Bharat Bhushan threatening to revoke Kingfisher’s operating certificate.
“Vijay Mallya has a lot of political influence in India [Mallya’s United Breweries Group holds roughly one third of all Kingfisher stock]. The DGCA’s turning a blind eye to Kingfisher’s problems is part of a recent pattern in India,” Rohit Rao, Indian aviation analyst and editor of AeroBlogger, told AIN. “Right now Kingfisher doesn’t have enough money to pay for spares or pay its mechanics. ”