Indian DGCA Opens Investigation Into SpiceJet Radio Failure

India’s aviation watchdog, the DGCA, has opened an investigation into an incident on a SpiceJet flight on Sunday. The flight’s radio system suddenly failed, leaving the pilots unable to communicate with Air Traffic Control. Contact was only established an hour later and the flight landed safely.

Maintaining radio contact with ATC is critical for any aircraft in the sky, with severe risks if the system fails. Photo: Getty Images

Lost contact

According to the Times of India, the incident occurred on SpiceJet flight SG 7052 from Kolkata to Chennai in the early hours of Sunday. The flight departed Kolkata at 12:15 AM and began the two-hour and 20-minute journey. However, just 33 minutes after departing the airport, Air Traffic Control (ATC) at Kolkata lost contact with the aircraft.

ATC could not contact the aircraft or speak to the pilots at the time but could still see the aircraft on the radar. They attempted to use emergency frequencies and other reserved frequencies but could not talk to the pilots. ATC in Kolkata was quickly able to rule out equipment failure on their end since they could communicate with other aircraft normally.

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The aircraft lost contact with ATC half an hour into the flight and did not regain contact for nearly an hour. Photo: Getty Images

After one stress-filled hour, ATC at Vizag informed Kolkata that it had managed to establish contact with the aircraft once again at 01:40 AM. In a statement about the incident, an ATC official said,

“We could see the plane on the monitor. But we could not pass any instruction to the pilots. The VHF system at our end was perfect because we were communicating with other planes. The pilots on the SpiceJet aircraft were either unable to hear us or not able to transmit the response.”

DGCA investigates

As is par for the course, India’s aviation regulator and investigator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), is looking into the incident. In specific, the DGCA is trying to understand what led to the aircraft losing contact and how it managed to re-establish contact a while later. Considering how important a functioning radio system is for an aircraft, we can assume the plane is currently grounded.

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The DGCA will investigate what led to the communication failure and order appropriate action to prevent it from happening again. Photo: Getty Images

Radio failures can be caused by several technical and equipment failures in the aircraft. Have any aircraft flying without the ability to communicate can prove to be dangerous and usually requires aircraft to turn around at the first sign of such a failure. The ongoing DGCA investigation will tell us more about what happened on this SpiceJet flight in the coming months.

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Tough months ahead

For SpiceJet and other Indian airlines, the coming months will likely prove challenging. As India finds itself in a powerful second wave of cases, domestic traffic, the cornerstone of revenue right now, will likely fall dramatically.

The coming weeks could see flight schedules pared back once again if passenger traffic continues to fall in the coming days and weeks. The second wave will also likely halt SpiceJet’s decision to add hundreds of new routes, which no longer seem feasible.