Regulator gives airports 3 months to meet safety norms on ground handling

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) is expanding its drive against unsafe ground handling practices at airports, aiming to achieve near-total compliance of norms in the next three months.

“Initially, we focussed on 10 major airports, but now the drive will also include Jaipur, Bhubaneswar, Patna, Visakhapatnam, and Coimbatore. It is an ongoing effort to change practices,” Director General of Civil Aviation Arun Kumar said. “Compliance is improving and we have not witnessed a ground handling incident at airports in the past three months,” he added.

The civil aviation regulator had carried out an audit of ground handling agencies in August last year, following which a safety checklist was issued to prevent accidents. Subsequently, inspections were carried out at 10 airports, where ground handlers and domestic airlines were found involved in unsafe practices.

The last reported incident was a collision of two vehicles in operational area of Delhi airport in October. 

Domestic airlines are allowed to carry out self-handling, while foreign airlines engage service providers like Air India Air Transport  Services, Bhadra International, Bird Worldwide Flight Services and Celebi Aviation. 

Inspections have covered operations of airlines as well as ground handling companies.

The regulator is also holding regular meetings with airlines, ground handlers, and other service providers like oil-marketing companies and catering companies. Surprise checks, too, will be conducted to ensure compliance.

Airline executives have pointed out operational constraints at airports, and stress of on-time departures puts pressure on staff, contributing to lapses. 

Kumar, however, said there was improvement. During inspections, DGCA officials had found ground equipment blocking the way of refuelling vehicles, and that practice has now stopped.

One common observation during inspections was the presence of foreign object debris in apron. Also containers and baggage trolleys were found unsecured. In some cases, the brakes of the trolleys were found unserviceable. Containers lying loose or foreign objects are a safety hazard and can cause injuries or damage.

Now, ground handling agencies are carrying out pre-arrival and pre-departure checks to ensure the apron area is free of foreign objects. The DGCA had also found that staff in the apron area were not wearing high-visibility jackets on duty, a lapse that has been corrected now. 


Aviation regulator’s observations and action taken
  • Foreign object debris check not carried out before arrival and departure: Addressed 
  • Unserviceable brakes in trollies, step ladders: Improvement noticed/ongoing
  • Emergency safety drills not conducted: Ongoing/planned
  • Oil leakage on airport surface: Partially addressed 
  • Use of high visibility jackets:  Addressed 
  • Parking of refuelling vehicles without clear exit:  Addressed 

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