#schoolsafety | ‘Solo’ flight crash: Hyderabad’s Wings Aviation loses flying school licence

NEW DELHI: Hyderabad-based Wings Aviation Pvt Ltd has been stripped of its flying training organisation (FTO) licence by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). The action comes after a probe into an October 6 accident of a trainer aircraft of Wings Aviation which had claimed the lives of two pilots on board. The ill-fated incident was supposed to be a solo training one with only the trainee pilot on board and no one else.

Unscrupulous flying schools in India and abroad routinely send either two students or a trainee and a trainer on flights that are earmarked as “solo” flights to save costs or ensure their expensive plane is not being flown by a trainee alone — something which is plain illegal. DGCA chief Arun Kumar who is known for his zero tolerance for safety issues, is learnt to have flying schools under his scanner.

The regulator had issued a show cause to Begumpet Airport-based Wings Aviation last Monday, a day after the accident. It had last Monday withdrawn its approval given to Captain Raunak Cyril to be the deputy chief flight instructor (CFI) Wings Aviation for this lapse. The deputy CFI had authorised that solo flight which actually had two pilots on board.

The DGCA on Monday issued the order after finding Wings Aviation’s reply unsatisfactory. “In the reply no explanation has been given for presence of (the other pilot who was not supposed to be on that solo flight). Whereas, an inspection of the Wings Aviation was conducted on October 10-11 by a DGCA team (and) several deficiencies were observed,” the order issued by DGCA’s deputy DG Ashutosh Vasistha says.

The deficiencies damningly include “trainee pilots are not sole occupant of flight, which are logged as solo flights” — a widespread malpractice across unscrupulous flying schools in India and abroad too. The other findings were Wings not having “adequate qualified man power… for maintaining their fleet (and) breath analyzer tests are not conducted (as per rules).”

“It is inferred that Wings Aviation Pvt Ltd has failed to maintain safe efficient and reliable training organisation as required the Aircraft Rules 1937…. approval granted to Wings Aviation Pvt Ltd as FTO stands suspended from the date of issue of this order… until further orders,” the order says.

Interestingly, DGCA’s order says Wings Aviation in its reply to last Monday’s show cause claimed it has been “working for more than two decades without any incident accident, whereas (a) Cessna 172R aircraft (VT-RGE) had a propeller strike incident on April 29, 2019, and another Cessna 172R (VT-RGC) met with an accident on November 21, 2018. Both these aircraft belong to the Wings Aviation,” the order says.

On October 6, a Wings Aviation Cessna-172 aircraft (VT-RGF) had crashed after taking off from Begumpet. Two pilots on board the aircraft — trainee pilot Amanpreet Kaur and Captain Prakash Vishal had died in the accident. This flight was authorised by deputy CFI Captain Raunak Cyril as a solo flight that was supposed to have been operated by only the trainee pilot as sole occupant of the aircraft.

“The presence of other pilot the aircraft was unauthorised and such unauthorised occupancy… deputy CFI failed to perform his duties… It also raises serious concern about working of the Wings Aviation as trainee pilots are not sole occupant of

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