The crash of a domestic flight in the neighbouring country of Pakistan is also a warning for India where flight operations are due to resume from May 25.
When Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri announced that domestic flights will start flying from May 25, many found it too soon considering the COVID-19 graph in India had just started taking off then. But the real question is whether the country is really ready for flights to resume without test flights.
Though the real reason behind the crash in Pakistan will take some time to be zeroed upon, one thing is very clear.Like elsewhere around the world, Pakistan’s aviation sector is also faced with the problem of grounding of planes during the two-month-long lockdown period. Since planes are grounded for this long, they need to be tested by flying them without any passenger on board to ensure that they are fit enough to ferry travellers.
Here lies the catch. There is no law which talks about a plane to undergo a test flight before it resumes its commercial flight operations, even after a gap of more than 60 days. So, in absence of a law, the airliners want to avoid test flights so as to save their money.
The rule of test flight is applicable in case the plane was stuck in a hangar for a long period of time. But there is no rule for planes which have been grounded under the open sky.
GS Bawa, senior aviation expert, says, “COVID-19 is a unique situation for each and every industry, the same for aviation. It has never happened in the past, particularly in the aviation industry. Test flight must be conducted for every aircraft before it resumes its commercial operation after two months' gap, on the lines of fitness test which is mandatory for a pilots too in such conditions. Airliners should do this on their own, keeping in view the safety of passengers.”
Hardeep Singh Puri has only said that the government’s Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are to be followed before flightoperations begin. However, there has been no mention of test flights.
In a normal scenario, a test flight costs between Rs 25 and 30 lakh. In the absence of a clear guideline from the government, airlines may not be willing to spend that much, say experts.