Thursday, July 07, 2022

Centre Bars Veteran Pilots With Investigation Experience From Joining Air Accident Probe Body

The Centre’s move to fill up crucial positions in the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) has attracted sharp criticism from veteran pilots from the civil and defence aviation space over several issues, including the required qualification.

On May 11, the Ministry of Civil Aviation, under which India’s sole probe agency for serious air incidents and accidents falls, released a public advertisement to recruit director general, directors, deputy directors, assistant directors and safety investigation officers in the AAIB. However, the eligibility criteria have become a bone of contention. Requirements such as holding analogous posts in government bodies and adequate work experience have been listed. There is more emphasis on various streams of engineering, such as aeronautical, electronics, mechanical and electrical, with experience in aviation safety.

For instance, to qualify for the post of director general, the candidate needs to have a similar post in any government body along with a bachelor's degree in engineering, 15 years of work experience in air safety and four years of experience in the investigation of air accidents and incidents. Safety experts, however, say that instead of 15 years of experience in air safety, similar experience in administration, finance and management can be considered as a good substitute for the post.

Many experienced pilots also allege that the criteria have been formed in such a way that a wide range of air safety professionals, who are crucial to the investigation, get eliminated. “The pay band, analogue level and other such conditions limit the selection pool to a few hundred people serving in government and semi-government organisations,” says Group Captain (retd) Ajay Ahlawat, who has served in the Indian Air Force for several years.

Ahlawat adds that the eligibility criteria for top positions in the AAIB practically eliminates the entire private sector, including airlines, non-scheduled operators and veteran military pilots. “It is a no-brainer that an experienced pilot ought to be included in an organisation designed to investigate air accidents,” he says.

Aviation experts say that considering the important role that the AAIB is expected to play, the selection pool ought to be wider, allowing pilots from civil aviation and military aviation with exposure to air safety aspects to apply. Some have even pleaded with the ministry to review the qualifications required and consider widening the scope.

Retired air commodore B.S. Siwach, a veteran who has earned distinguished recognitions such as the Ati Vishisht Seva Medal, Yudh Seva Medal and Vayu Sena Medal, says that the eligibility criteria appear to be flawed as the inputs received by the ministry to develop them seem to have been given by professionals with a vested interest. “Basically, an accident investigation should be carried out by an experienced pilot who should also be the head of the investigation team. Experienced and qualified engineers should be part of the team as team members.

07/07/22 Jeevan Prakash Sharma/Outlook

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