MUMBAI: Two AirAsia India top officials, Capt Manish Uppal, head of operations and Capt Mukesh Neema, head of air safety have been suspended for a period of three months by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) for alleged safety violations.
Director General of Civil Aviation, Arun Kumar confirmed the development. Under the regulator’s norms, appointments to crucial posts like airline-head of airsafety, head of operations are cleared by the DGCA.
AirAsia India had come under the DGCA scanner in June after one of its pilots, Captain Gaurav Taneja, posted a 27 minute video on his YouTube channel (Flying Beast), alleging that the airline had been violating certain safety norms in order to cut fuel costs. In a tweet, he alleged that he was placed under suspension by AirAsia India “for standing up for safe operations of aircraft and its passengers”.
The tweet went viral, following which the DGCA began a probe into the allegations and later in June, issued a show cause notice to Capt Uppal, Capt Neema and the CEO of the airline. Meanwhile, on June 26, Capt Taneja was terminated by the airline. “He was terminated following an inquiry conducted by officials, including Capt Neema, the very person against whom Capt Taneja had made allegations,’’ said advocate Yeshwant Shenoy, one of Capt Taneja’s lawyers.
AirAsia India spokesperson was not reachable for comment.
“Pilots are always afraid to raise issues, especially in these times of job insecurities due to the COVID pandemic’s impact on the airline industry. I’ve always been telling them that if they stand up for safety violations, it will have to be addressed by the system. This is the best example of that,” said Shenoy.
Speaking about the recent Air India Express Calicut crash that killed 18people last week, Advocate Shenoy added: “Had pilots stood up for safety issues, Calicut could certainly have been avoided. There would be many more to come.”
Capt Taneja’s spokesperson said that the DGCA had suspended Capt Uppal and Capt Neema over safety violations flagged by him.
A former IIT-Kharagpur graduate, Capt Taneja, an A320 commander had joined AirAsia India in May 2019 (he was employed with another airline before that). In his YouTube video, he said that the airline was following certain practices which he found to be detrimental to flight safety. He raised such safety issues regularly on the airline’s official whtsapp group for its pilots and later with higher-ups.
In his youtube clip titled titled “Reason behind suspension from my pilot job” , he spoke about two unsafe practices. He alleged that in AirAsia India, pilots who availed of a sick leave had to forgo the weekly leave that followed. “The policy discouraged pilots from calling in sick when they are unfit to fly, especially if they had made plans for the day when their weekly off was scheduled,” he said.
The second safety-related issue was about “flap 3” mode landings, which saved about 8 kgs of fuel per landing. AirAsia India pilots had to meet a target of 98% flap 3 landings, he alleged. The other option, landing in full flap mode results in higher fuel burn due to increased drag. But on short runways or say, in tailwind conditions, a full flap landing is the safer option. Capt Taneja said that on runways like Imphal, a flap 3 landing in tailwind condition is unsafe.

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