GUWAHATI, Jan 24 - Not many will know that when Boeing, the world�s largest aeroplane maker, was slapped with a fine of $15 million over a major plane crash in Taiwan in 2002 that left 225 dead, it was an Assamese engineer who established that the crash occurred due to improper maintenance by the operator and not because of any manufacturing or design defect.
Dr Girindra Kumar Das, an IIT Kharagpur alumnus and a double doctorate from the University of Washington, led the Boeing team of specialists who reassembled the aircraft and established that the lapse was with the airline operator which kept ignoring recommendations from Boeing on periodical body maintenance and related matters on the ill-fated aircraft.
�Inspection is crucial for maintaining an aircraft in running condition. While Boeing planes do not require maintenance for 20 years, operating it beyond that period entails periodical maintenance. An aircraft can be kept operational for 30 years in this manner and for a maximum period of 40 years,� Dr Das, who worked with Boeing for 52 years after joining it in 1965, told The Assam Tribune.
Dr Das, a specialist in fatigue and damage tolerance of aircraft structures, has trained and mentored a large number of engineers on structural durability and damage tolerance analysis methods. During his tenure in Boeing he had been a part of the body design team for 707, 727, 737, 747, 757, 767 and 777 aircraft.
�I have been witness to the evolution of the Boeing planes since 1965. After I proved that Boeing was not to be faulted on the Taiwan crash, it rewarded me with $30,000,� he said.
Dr Das, who did his BTech and MTech in structural engineering from IIT Kharagpur and two doctorates in structural engineering and material science from the University of Washington, has delivered talks across the world on issues involving airplane safety from structural fatigue. Even Airbus, the rival of Boeing, had him as a guest lecturer. He regards aircraft safety as a critical subject that is assuming increasing importance in view of the rapid expansion of air connectivity.
�More and more people across the world are travelling by air. Air safety is a highly specialized subject now with more and more technical institutes endorsing it as a subject. But I have seen that it�s not taught in any of the institutes in Assam. I am ready to offer my expertise if the subject is introduced here,� he said.
Also a successful entrepreneur, Das set up the first Indian restaurant billed India House at Seattle in the mid-1960s. �I went on to recruit 24 Indian cooks in my restaurant. Celebrities like Bill Gates, Pandit Ravi Shankar, Ustad Allah Rakha Khan, Ustad Zakir Hussain, etc., have visited my restaurant,� he said.
Married to Leslie Das, Das� family includes their daughter Bijoya who is a gymnast and a dancer, and son Nikhil who recently joined Boeing.