New government body will investigate air mishaps

The government may set up a new body to investigate air accidents and incidents, including plane crashes. The move aims to facilitate unbiased investigation by disassociating the investigation agency from the technical regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). The proposed body would also make recommendations to improve safety in the domestic aviation sector.

At present, the DGCA looks after all safety-related issues, including accidents. But the government feels the need for two separate bodies - one to certify airworthiness and another to look into the reasons for mishaps, a senior official in the ministry of civil aviation said.

The ministry would like to follow the model followed by Indian Railways. The Commission of Railway Safety (CRS), which conducts inquiries into serious train accidents, functions under the ministry of civil aviation. It has been de-linked from the railway ministry to ensure independent and impartial investigations, he said.

The domestic aviation industry is growing at an unprecedented 25 per cent annually, and it is important to strengthen safety. In 2006, there were five aircraft accidents, while 2007 has seen more than half-a-dozen aircraft accidents already.

Reasons behind a plane crash could range from mechanical problems, to bird hits, to pilot error. The proposal assumes significance as the country's total commercial airliner fleet is expected to reach 500 to 550 units by 2010.