Air turbulence: 2 in ICU, DGCA grounds SpiceJet crew

NEW DELHI: Operating the badly rattled Boeing 737 onward to Kolkata hours after it encountered severe turbulence during the Durgapur approach on Sunday night has cost SpiceJet dear. The DGCA has removed from duty the aircraft maintenance engineer who cleared this plane to take off from Durgapur, the pilots who flew it to Kolkata as a ferry flight (without passengers), and the airline’s maintenance control centre chief pending its investigation.
Three passengers are still in hospital, including two in the ICU, after suffering brain and spinal injuries, the DGCA said.

Strict action against the airline’s top flight safety honchos will follow soon, DGCA officials said. Additionally, DGCA chief Arun Kumar has ordered thorough checks on SpiceJet’s entire fleet.

SpiceJet aircraft faces air turbulence during its descent, in Durgapur on Sunday.
Flight SG-945 had taken off Sunday from Mumbai at 5.13pm for Durgapur with 199 people on board — 195 passengers, four cabin crew and two pilots. “During descent, the aircraft experienced severe turbulence. In this period the autopilot got disengaged for two minutes and the crew manually flew the aircraft,” the DGCA said in a statement. “The oxygen panels of the B737 opened up and oxygen masks fell off. (A) Few seat hand rests and overhead decorative panels were damaged. One cabin overhead bin (hatrack) lock was found broken,” it added.

Due to the severe turbulence, 14 passengers and three cabin crew members got injured. The injuries were to the head, spine, shoulder, forehead and face.

SpiceJet later operated the aircraft to its nearest maintenance base, Kolkata, for repairs as a ferry flight. But flying this badly rattled plane is being viewed as a safety violation.
The regulator has formed a multi-disciplinary panel to probe the turbulence incident. SpiceJet says eight of the 11 hospitalised passengers have been discharged and that both the cockpit and cabin crew had made “multiple announcements asking flyers to remain seated with seat belts fastened” when the Boeing 737 was being buffetted by turbulence.
Aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia tweeted Monday: “…The DGCA has deputed a team to investigate the incident. The matter is being dealt with utmost seriousness and deftness…”
A SpiceJet spokesperson said: “SpiceJet is providing all possible help to the injured. The seat belt sign was on when the aircraft encountered turbulence… Due to severe turbulence, injuries were caused to a few passengers. Timely medical assistance was provided upon arrival.”