Wednesday, November 23, 2016

AI chief against plan to punish sick pilots

The director-general of civil aviation's (DGCA) draft proposal, which threatens to cancel the licenses of airline pilots who call in sick and refuse duty "on a periodic basis", was given a thumbs down by the Air India (AI) chairman Ashwani Lohani who found it to be detrimental to air safety.
"The chairman sent a letter to the DGCA on Tuesday stating his fears over the repercussions it would have on air safety," said an AI source. Lohani's letter is significant given that the Air India would have benefited commercially with the implementation of the said controversial draft.
Air India is one of the two Indian carriers whose pilots are grouped together under a registered union (the other is Jet Airways) and so has faced the brunt of protests in the past. "But there can be no compromise on air safety and it doesn't help an airline if it's pilots are stressed over such issues," he added. Wednesday is the DGCA deadline to send comments over the draft. What pummelled the draft though was the six-page strong reply sent on Tuesday to the DGCA by the pilots union of Air India and Jet Airways, which together represents over 3000 airline pilots.
The letter said the draft will "greatly imperil air safety" and exposed some of the brow-raising rostering practices followed by cockpit crew-starved airlines. It challenged the DGCA to carry out a survey of the number of pilots in each airline vis-a-vis the number and type of aircraft, and to publish the same.
The focus though was on Indian carrier's practise of "last minute rostering", especially for short haul flights. "The correct procedure is that a flying roster is drawn up month wise, or every two weeks at the most. There is, in addition, throughout the world in the aviation industry, the practice of putting pilots and cabin crew on "standby" to cover any situation where those rostered to fly cannot do so, due to illness, unforeseen adverse circumstances, etc. This is the very concept of standby. However in the airlines in which we are employed, the roster is almost never followed and is changed on a daily basis to keep flight schedules on time. It is a well-known fact that this is due to a chronic shortage in pilots - especially of commanders".
23/11/16 Manju V/The Times Of India