Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Helicopters, Elections and Safety

Neelam Mathews
March 26, 2014
Pix Credit-Deccan Chronicle
As India enters the final phase of elections carried out in phases over five weeks starting April 7, regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has issued strict guidelines to helicopter and small fixed wing operators and warns non-compliance could lead to suspension of licenses and Air Operators Permits.
The circular comes in the background of DGCA reeling under a cloud of FAA having downgraded India's aviation safety rating in January. DGCA acknowledges: “An analysis of earlier accidents and incidents…….has revealed laid-down instructions were violated time and again and safety was jeopardized.”
A shortfall in supply with over 31 helicopters sold in the past year and a half, and politicians wanting to campaign at 4-5 remote villages in a day, have created logistics and safety problems. “Most landings in remote areas are dusty. Hovering blades create a dust storm and ground handlers need to spray water,” Sanjeev Choudhary, helicopter consultant, told AIN. “Helicopters are a novelty in interiors. So, large crowds have to be managed in the vicinity of landings. While this gives politicians a ready-made audience, safety and security become issues to contend with,” said Choudhary.
Election flying includes long flying-hours, a large number of take-offs and landings, weather changes, lack of proper rest, hurriedly prepared helipads, time management, stressed security arrangement, surcharged crowd, congested airspace, difficult and disturbed areas and lack of adequate communication pose serious risks to air travel during elections, said the DGCA circular.
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