SpiceJet pilots have reliability issues with weather radar

The Boeing 737-800 aircraft of SpiceJet carrying 195 passengers encountered severe turbulence due to the thunderstorm, on its way to Durgapur from Mumbai on May 1.

Investigation into the incident was handed over to the AAIB, as it was classified as an accident due to passengers sustaining serious injuries. Out of the 14 passengers and three cabin crew who sustained injuries, two had severe injuries to their spine and shoulder and had been admitted to ICU.

The Aircraft Accident Investigation Board (AAIB), investigates aircraft accidents and is a division of the Ministry of Civil Aviation.

The Aircraft Accident Investigation Board (AAIB) took over the probe into severe turbulence on a SpiceJet flight that left people injured, even as experts blamed inclement weather for the incident and called for the investigation to ascertain the crew’s response to it.

The investigation also found that SpiceJet’s maintenance control centre (MCC) was aware of the reliability issue of the radar.

“The pilot deviated to his left in order to avoid turbulence but did not get alerted about the upcoming issue in his deviated path. The two operating pilots acted on the information on the weather pattern in the first instance, they weren’t aware of the air pocket that caused the turbulence after deviating from the path.”

SpiceJet official

The turbulence that is hard to detect is called ‘clear air turbulence’ because it presents without other indicators. Not all turbulence can be forecasted or seen in advance. This incident highlights the necessity of wearing your seatbelt at all times, especially during critical phases of flight.

The Mumbai-Durgapur SpiceJet flight encountered severe turbulence during its descent phase.

According to the preliminary investigation report, on April 30, pilots of the aircraft, VT-SLH, while operating from Delhi to Kolkata, found that the radar was not depicting the weather correctly. Following the landing at Kolkata, the commander of the aircraft made an entry of the issue in the pilot defect report (PDR).

ALSO READ – Spicejet mid-air turbulence – here’s what is known so far

While the aircraft operated on four other sectors the next day, it faced inclement weather conditions during its last flight over Durgapur. At least three other flights that were routed to fly over the same region on that day deviated and opted for longer routings to avoid the storm, while the SpiceJet aircraft flew straight into it.

According to the preliminary investigation report, on April 30, pilots of the aircraft, VT-SLH, while operating from Delhi to Kolkata, found that the radar was not depicting the weather correctly.

A maintenance engineer in Mumbai informed the Maintenance Control Centre (MCC) about the snag. The engineer was told that they were aware of the reliability issue and that there was a shortage of high-cost spares like weather radar, according to the draft report.

As per instruction from the MCC, he then carried out an operational check and found the weather radar patterns satisfactory and informed the MCC to monitor the aircraft further, the report added.

India’s aviation regulator DGCA has launched an inspection on the entire SpiceJet aircraft fleet after the incident. It has also taken off the roster of the flight’s crew, aircraft maintenance engineer (AME) and in charge of SpiceJet’s maintenance control centre pending a probe. 

(With Inputs from The Economic Times)

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