Can an auditor be in command of the aircraft accident bureau?

In a move that has raised eyebrows, an officer from the Indian Audit and Accounts Service (IA&AS) with no technical expertise in aviation has been appointed director general of the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB).

According to a report published in The Times of India, Puja Singh Mandol also holds the post of joint director general, Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), where she handles administrative duties.

Can an auditor be in command of the aircraft accident bureau?

A source said Mandol’s appointment as AAIB director general is a stop-gap measure till the post gets filled. The post was, until a couple of months ago, held by Group Captain Aurobindo Handa.

Capt Amit Singh, an air safety expert, said, “The appointment may be temporary, but the question is can she undertake the jobs and responsibilities that come with heading the accident investigation bureau for that period of time? For instance, final reports into accidents and incidents, documents highly technical in nature, are submitted to the director general for acceptance.”

Capt Amit Singh, Air Safety Expert

The ministry of civil aviation was not reachable for comment.

The Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) is a division of the Ministry of Civil Aviation, Government of India which investigates aircraft accidents and incidents in India.

Former Indian Airlines director, flight safety, Capt S S Panesar, said, “It is unsafe even if it is for a short period, as an incident or accident can take place any time. The onus of ordering an investigation and overseeing it would then fall on the inexperienced official…The current practice of deputing cadre from DGCA to AAIB and especially the head of the AAIB not being technically qualified not only is a conflict of interest but is demoralizing for the industry.”

Capt S S Panesar, Former Director (Flight Safety), Indian Airlines

The agency was established by an order on May 26, 2011. The Aircraft (Investigation of Accidents and Incidents) Rules, 2012 came into effect on July 5, 2012. It provides for the setting up of an Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau.

AAIB, India has carried out more than 150 Accident and Incident investigations so far including a major accident in 2020 of Air India Express Flight 1344.

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(With Inputs from The Time of India)