Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Indian airlines try new crew, pilot rosters to cut fatigue, health issues

Airlines including Air India, Vistara, Air India Express, Akasa Air, SpiceJet and IndiGo are trying out new cabin crew and pilot rosters to address growing concerns over fatigue and health issues.

The airlines are implementing schedules so that pilots don’t fly both morning and night flights within a 24-hour period, a senior official from the civil aviation ministry told Moneycontrol.

"The Directorate General of Civil Aviation is working with all Indian airlines to create more pilot and cabin crew-friendly rostering schedules and reduce fatigue," the official said.

He added that while the DGCA has not changed the flight duty time limitation (FDTL) norms, it is testing new schedules.

"The DGCA is working with airlines to conduct trials under which part of the airline's roster will be divided into morning and night rotating schedules," a senior DGCA official said.

He added that all Indian airlines have volunteered to be a part of the rostering trials. Feedback will be collected to assess the efficiency, practical implementation, and physiological and psychological state of tiredness and weariness of the fight crew before taking a call on new FDTL norms.

Currently, the FDTL norms do not differentiate between day and night flights and allow pilots to be on duty for 13 hours within a 24-hour span.

The US Federal Aviation Administration allows pilots to be on duty for a maximum of 14 hours during the day and for nine hours for late-night flights within a span of 24 hours. Pilots on duty during the day are not allowed to operate at night and can fly again only after a minimum 10-hour rest, according to the FAA norms.

The DGCA started a review of pilot fatigue data last month after the sudden death of IndiGo pilot Manoj Balasubramani, who fell unconscious while on duty on August 17 at Nagpur airport and passed away.

The incident raised questions about mounting fatigue among airline crews, responding to which the DGCA said that the August 17 flight at 1300 IST from Nagpur was the pilot’s first flight of the day and that he had received 27 hours of rest after his previous flight. He had operated a flight each from Thiruvananthapuram to Pune and Pune to Nagpur on August 16.

On July 6, an IndiGo flight from Dehradun to Chennai was delayed by several hours as the pilot complained of fatigue.

12/09/2023 Yaruqhullah Khan/Moneycontrol

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