Flight of fancy: SpiceJet prepares audit story

MUMBAI: After the low cost carrier Spicejetuntil recently under enhanced supervision of the General Directorate of Civil Aviation (DG CA) for safety reasons, it said last week that it passed with flying colors an audit conducted by none other than the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the latter clarified on Tuesday that it had not verified any airline company.
The website of ICAO, which is a specialized agency of the United Nations that sets standards and regulations for civil aviation, states that it never controls any airline or airport in any country.
“As part of an ICAO coordinated validation mission, ICAO teams carry out sector visits to verify the effectiveness of the Civil Aviation Authority’s safety oversight. This will include visits to multiple operators. ICAO would like to clarify that visits to these operators are not an audit or inspection at all,” he said.


“Operator” in this context refers to SpiceJet, the only airline that the ICAO team visited in India from 9 to 16 November. “It had absolutely nothing to do with SpiceJet and its safety standards, good or bad,” said a senior official, requesting anonymity.
But the press release released by SpiceJet on December 5 would suggest otherwise. “ICAO audit is the benchmark of safety. We are proud that our safety culture, systems, processes and operations are found to be in order and on par with global best practices and safety standards,” he said Ajay Singh, president and chief executive officer of SpiceJet, in the press release. “This audit is a testament to the highest standard of safety followed by SpiceJet,” he said. Subsequently, the airline sent an email to its passengers on Monday, titled “You are in good hands. And we’re not the ones to say it!” SpiceJet added, “ICAO audit validates SpiceJet’s high safety standards.”
SpiceJet did not respond to a question sent by TOI.
In late July, following numerous technical problems with its fleet of aircraft, DGCA placed SpiceJet under “enhanced surveillance” until late September and subsequently extended it for another month. During this time, SpiceJet was only allowed to operate 50% of its scheduled flights. It was in the wake of this bad publicity that ICAO’s audit of the functioning of the DGCA took place in November and SpiceJet said it had authorized ICAO’s audit.
So what does ICAO check? It monitors the aviation security and aviation safety oversight capabilities of its member states. In India, for example, it would verify the functioning of the DGCA. “It is important to recognize that these audits do not concern airlines, airports or other industry players,” ICAO states on its website.
The senior official said: “ICAO is undoubtedly one of the most misunderstood aviation organizations and the SpiceJet case has demonstrated how airlines can use this to their advantage.” ICAO has also done its part to combat this type of disinformation. For example, on its website, ICAO undertakes to clarify that “it is not an international regulator of aviation, just as Interpol is not an international police force”. “We cannot arbitrarily close or limit a country’s airspace, disrupt routes, or condemn airports or airlines for poor safety or customer service performance,” he clarified. His website also makes it clear that he never checks airlines.
ICAO’s latest statement states, “ICAO’s Universal Safety Oversight Audit Program (USOAP) team conducted an ICAO Coordinated Validation Mission (ICVM) to India from 9 to 16 November 2022. The objective of a ICVM is to validate progress in addressing the outcomes of previous USOAP activities.”


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