The aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation is investigating AirAsia India after one of its pilots, who runs a popular YouTube channel called Flying Beast, alleged violations of safety norms by the low-cost airliner, senior DGCA officials said on Monday.
"DGCA has taken note of the concerns raised by some stakeholders against a particular airline and its approach to safety. DGCA has already started an investigation into the issues flagged and shall take appropriate action based on the outcome of the said investigation," the Directorate General of Civil Aviation said on Twitter.
DGCA has not named AirAsia in its tweet, but sources confirmed to multiple media houses that the airline in question is AirAsia.
According to CNBCTV18, a DGCA team will be visiting the AirAsia premises in Bengaluru, and an outcome can be expected in 2-3 days.
Gaurav Taneja, a blogger and a Captain with the airline tweeted on Sunday that he has been suspended by AirAsia India "for standing up for safe operations of an aircraft and its passengers". On Monday, he posted a detailed video on YouTube titled "Reasons behind suspension from my pilot job".
Taneja has 2.93 million subscribers on YouTube, and soon after his tweet, #BoycottAirAsia began trended on Twitter.
He had first claimed that there were issues with public safety policies of AirAsia on June 13.
Taneja makes three primary allegations in the video: that he was made to work on his off days and putting sick pilots in the cockpit is risky. When he escalated this to the chief of safety, he allegedly wrote back that he undergo lifestyle counselling and medical tests again.
He also alleged that protocols that were in place in March when coronavirus was spreading was not followed properly the airline (although he does not outline which), and stated that from March 24 onwards, he refused to fly.
Taneja alleged the airline has asked its pilots to do 98% of landings in "Flap 3" mode, which allows it to save fuel. He said if a pilot does not do 98% of landings in "Flap 3" mode, the airline considers it a violation of its standard operating procedure (SOP).
Flaps are part of wings of an aircraft and they are engaged to create a drag during a landing or a take off.
Taneja gave the example of Imphal airport, where the plane descends more steeply as compared to other airports when approaching for landing. He said when an aircraft is coming down steeply, it needs to have a drag so that it remains slow, and in these circumstances a pilot has to do a "Flap full" landing.
"In order to achieve targets, what would people do? They will do Flap 3 landings without giving consideration whether it is safe or unsafe. This directly impacts the passenger safety," he said in his YouTube video.
If something happens during a Flap 3 landing, then the question would be asked to the pilot if he or she cares more about saving fuel or 180 passengers' lives, Taneja said.
Amit Singh, the former Chief of Safety at AirAsia India, tweeted that he resigned with just a dayâ€™s notice and refused to work with the company because the company allegedly asked him to hide safety issues.
â€śAs the Chief of Flight Safety of AirAsia India after launch, I resigned and left with 1 days notice.I refused to work for them for a minute after they asked me to hide safety related issues.Such is the safety culture there.They accused me of working for @DGCAIndia instead of them,â€ť he tweeted.
â€” Gaurav Taneja (@flyingbeast320) June 13, 2020
In a statement, an AirAsia India spokesperson, "AirAsia India stands firmly on its value of 'Safety Always'. The safety of our guests is of paramount importance in every aspect of our operations. AirAsia India is cognizant of the matter in regard to a social media post put up by one of its employees."
"We are cooperating with the DGCA on this matter. As a policy, AirAsia India does not comment on matters pertaining to its business or employees," the spokesperson added.
With inputs from PTI