As the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) delves into investigating the chartered plane crash that killed five people in Mumbai’s Ghatkopar area on Thursday, 28 June, what caused the crash is still a mystery.
However, skeletons are now tumbling out of the closets of Indamer Aviation – the aircraft maintenance and repair overhaul firm responsible for the Beechcraft King Air C90 model aircraft that crashed. The ill-fated plane itself was, however, owned by UY Aviation Private Ltd.
Action Against Indamer Aviation in 2016
In 2016, the DGCA pulled up Indamer Aviation after an inquiry into a series of violations. The probe was initiated after an ex-employee wrote to the DGCA with proof of the instances of blatant violations by the company that oversaw repairs and maintenance of at least 70 aircraft around 2016.
According to a former employee at Indamer Aviation, who did not want to be named, engineers at Indamer were made to sign off on inspections without being physically present to carry out these inspections. Despite being informed of this, the company management refused to act on complaints, the ex-employee told The Quint.
The violation was blatant. If an engineer is checking an aircraft in Surat, at the same time, his or her name is also stamped in Mumbai. How can one person be present in two different cities, checking two different aircraft at the same time?
Indamer Aviation’s former employee
The violations allegedly did not end there. “Sometimes, they were doing repairs without any parts. To carry out maintenance, you require consumable parts that need to be changed. They were not changing these parts but on paper they were showing that this part has been changed,” another source told The Quint.
After documents that corroborated these claims were submitted to the DGCA, an investigation was done and three engineers were suspended. Sources, however, toldThe Quint that while these three engineers are now not authorised to sign off on repairs, they are still very much a part of the company.
Speaking to ANI, the Executive Director of Indamer Aviation, Kanu Gohain, said the aircraft had undergone extensive repair work under them.
What caused the plane crash has not been found yet. The investigation is still on. It is very strange as there were no emergencies or untoward events during the 40 minute that it had flown prior to the crash. But the incident is really unfortunate as it claimed five lives.Kanu Gohain to ANI
He further added that Indamer Aviation had extensively repaired the plane and removed faulty parts. “After the Uttar Pradesh government sold it to UY Aviation, it was given to us for repair work. We repaired the plane thoroughly, replacing all the faulty parts. Following that reweighing, systems check, all the functions of the craft were thoroughly checked. The checking process is done twice to be fail-safe,” he told ANI.
Maintaining the UY Aviation-Owned Plane
Indamer had been maintaining the chartered plane owned by UY Aviation Private Ltd since 2016 after the latter bought the plane from the Uttar Pradesh government. To find out the airworthiness of the plane, it was offered for an air test. While conducting a flight test after taking off from the Juhu airport, the plane crashed.
“The engineers on board were from Indamer Aviation, and we had provided them our pilots for the air test as they only undertake maintenance,” said Captain Vinod, the chief of flight safety at UY Aviation.
He further said:
We are going through an investigation that is not word of mouth but by scientific means whereby each and everything is being checked out as there is a special team which is not a partisan one. The dedicated team called Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau which does the job of finding facts and figures. They will recommend what actions must be taken.
UY Aviation Blacklisted By State Govt
In 2017, UY Aviation was blacklisted by the Maharashtra government for official use following a series of mishaps involving choppers of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.
In May 2017, after Fadnavis’ helicopter developed a snag in Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli district, the chief minister had to drive from the Maoist-affected region to Nagpur, leaving his security officials working on overdrive to increase security arrangements.
In July 2017, Fadnavis had a narrow escape when his helicopter suddenly took off as he was about board it at a helipad in Alibaug, in Raigad district.
In both instances, the choppers were owned by UY Aviation. Soon after the second mishap, the company was barred by the state government for official use.