An Air India 777 booked to capacity was delayed for more than eight hours in Chicago after a surprise safety inspection by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) discovered something sinister…missing seat belt tags!
Apparently the flight was preparing to depart when surprise inspectors from the FAA showed up and demanded to examine the aircraft.
The surprise check by the [FAA] found a large number of belts on seats of the Delhi-bound Boeing-777 (VT-ALK) without the mandatory tags bearing their technical standard order (TSO) number.
Per the FAA–
A Technical Standard Order (TSO) is a minimum performance standard issued by the United States Federal Aviation Administration for specified materials, parts, processes, and appliances used on civil aircraft. Articles with TSO design approval are eligible for use on the United States type certified products.
In plain English, the FAA had no way to tell if the safety belts were certified and therefore safe.
Air India responded by pulling out some seat belts from its 777 sitting on the ground at New York JFK and putting them on a Delta flight to Chicago. Once the tag-bearing safety belts arrived in Chicago, they were promptly installed and the plane took off…eight hours late. No word on the fate of the JFK flight, presumably missing seat belts…
Deliberate Targeting of Air India?
Air India is indignant that it was subjected to so strict a check. A spokesman stated–
The seat belts were perfectly fine. Only some had tags worn out. This is an instance of impractical or irrelevant stipulations being imposed on Air India by FAA. However, we would take necessary action to ensure such things don’t recur. A lot of new seat belts have been ordered.
A senior Air India official added–
The checks have intensified in the recent past. While technically FAA was correct in pointing out the missing TSO tags, we told them that new seat belts have been ordered and the old ones will be replaced very soon. Still the aircraft was not allowed to take off till we got some belts from another of our aircraft in New York.
Well, yeah. That’s the point. I feel like if Air India cannot get its tags right, will it fail to maintain other more critical components of its aircraft?
image: Brian / Wikimedia Commons