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The widespread disruption caused by the sudden cancellation of a large number of flights by the private carriers, Indigo and GoAir, on Tuesday was inevitable following a direction from the Director General of Civil Aviation. Passenger safety rightly received priority over adhering to pre-announced flight schedules. Though, the engines on Airbus planes had been a source of concern for sometime, the DGCA finally took the call on the airworthiness of Airbus A320 Neo aircrafts earlier this week.

It seems the American engines fitted on the French aircrafts were prone to develop midair snags. A cash-rich West Asian airline had declined delivery of these planes last year for the same reason. Reports of  trouble on the Airbus planes fitted with these new American engines had come in from other foreign airlines as well. After dilly-dallying for months, the DGCA directive, late on Monday, led to the grounding of 11 Airbus A320 Neos. As a result, over 60 flights were cancelled the next day. The problem is likely to persist for a couple of months till the Airbus is able to fix the engine problem. It seems the DGCA was alerted when a Lucknow-bound Indigo flight developed a midair snag and was forced to return to Ahmedabad. Instead of fixing the problem with modifications, the DGCA wants the airlines to go for a thorough overhaul of the engines by the manufacturers.

That would mean the airlines will be obliged to curtail services for a few months till the engine problem is fixed to the satisfaction of independent experts. Why should the two private airlines have inducted these new planes into their fleets when the West Asian airline had pointedly refused to take delivery of these very aircrafts last year remains unclear. Given that an ever increasing number of Indians now travel by air both domestically and internationally, their safety should be of paramount interest. Fierce competition between Boeing and Airbus, the two large aircraft manufacturers, is further compounded by the equally tough tussle among a couple of engine manufacturers, who want to have their engines fitted on these  planes. Rival marketing teams and their lobbies are known to use every trick in the trade to sell their wares, especially when engines account for a major part of the total cost of the planes. The civil aviation regulator needs to ensure that the private airlines do not resort to shortcuts when it comes to passenger safety. Meanwhile, the flying public must put up with the drastic curtailment of flights on certain routes.

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