Ghatkopar Plane Crash: ‘Test Flight Was Illegal,’ Says Report

The aircraft that crashed in Mumbai’s Ghatkopar area killing 5 people instantly in July 2018 was on illegal test flight, said a Parliamentary panel report investigating into the incident. Pulling up Indamer Aviation, that was in charge of the aircraft’s maintenance and UY Aviation, the owner of the plane, the panel pointed out the different violations that caused the crash.

"“Indamer and UY Aviation went ahead illegally for this test flight without submitting completion report to DGCA and DGCA has also observed that the work was not completed as per the design sanction for this flight. The Committee are surprised to note that the aircraft was not at all offered for inspection by the DGCA before the test flight. This is a clear violation of the established procedure/norms for undertaking the flight test (sic).”" - Parliamentary Panel report

A broken wing of the ill-fated aircraft.

The report went on to state that the Ministry of Civil Aviation and the DGCA too cannot absolve themselves of their responsibility by stating that the aircraft was not offered to them for inspection. The blatant violation by Indamer and UY Aviation also prompts the panel to question the Ministry of Civil Aviation and DGCA’s ability to stop such serious violations from occurring in the future.

‘Test Flight In Bad Weather Illegal’

Two other important violations that were carried out by the companies were- conducting the test flight when the weather was bad and also carrying two ground engineers along for the test flight. Another shocking finding by the committee was that test flights are sometimes conducted as a joy ride flight.

"“The flight carried two ground engineers in illegal manner (ground engineer are not supposed o fly in the test flight), the family of the deceased also stated which is confirmed by the officials that the pilot and ground engineer are pushed into the aircraft forcefully in an illegal manner (sic).”" - Parliamentary Panel report

On 28 June 2018, the day the King Air C90 model aircraft was carrying two pilots and two engineers at the time of the crash. Family of Captain Marya Zuberi, who was co-piloting the ill-fated aircraft on the day it crashed, have also constantly asserted that the team was forced to fly despite the bad weather.

"“On the day of the crash, my wife, Capt Zuberi, told me, as she left the house, that she believed the weather conditions were not fit for flying and that the test flight shall be cancelled once again.”" - Prabhat Kathuria, husband of the deceased pilot Captain Marya Zuberi had told The Quint in July 2018 

Captain Marya Zubari was the co-pilot of the aircraft that crashed. 

Aircraft Insurance Worth Rs 7 Crore is Illegal & Non-Transparent

In its report, the Parliamentary Panel says that UY Aviation bought the aircraft for about Rs 1.4 crore from Silver Jubilee on 18 August 2016. The actual repair of the aircraft started in 2017. However, UY Aviation got the aircraft insured for a whopping Rs 7 crore, 5 times more than what it was worth.

"“In practical termology, the cost/valuation of the aircraft should be Rs 1.40 crore, then how and why the insurance company issued such insurance cover of Rs 7 crore that too of an aircraft which did not have CoA (Certificate of Airworthiness) at that time and was parked in a damaged condition at Juhu Airport, Mumbai.”" - Parliamentary Panel report

The panel then sought an investigation by the department of financial services into the insurance and the purchase and repairs of the aircraft due to its non-transparent nature.

“Their objective was to let people die and claim insurance,” said Prabhat Kathuria. Families of the deceased employees will not be receiving insurance money as the insurance policy itself is illegal and non-transparent, clarified the report.

No Compensation For Families Of The Deceased

While families of the deceased are yet to receive any compensation, Captain Zuberi’s husband Prabhat Kathuria alleges that officials from Indamer Aviation have reached out to them multiple times in the last 6 months, offering them compensation only if they agree to not lodge police complaints.

"“There is a lot of pressure on us also to settle the matter. They are offering us money under the table. I was called to a hotel by people from UY Aviation and was asked to sign on papers and withdraw my complaint. They are offering us compensation against our sign on a letter which is a release form. The agreement says that we will not complaint against them. Somebody has killed my wife, why should I relieve him for money?”" - Prabhat Kathuria  

In its report, the Parliamentary panel too expressed its concerns over the Mumbai police not filing an FIR in the case even 6 months after the incident.

The Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau is expected to file a detailed report on the crash around February 2019.

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