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Air-India flouts rules; pilot far exceeds flight duty time
T.R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 30
Continuing with quickfire violations of the Civil Aviation Rules (CAR), Air-India once again finds itself at the wrong end of the stick for allegedly allowing a 747-400 commander to operate a Frankfurt-Chicago flight after having travelled on the same aircraft on the Mumbai-Frankfurt sector as a supernumerary or staff in uniform thereby seriously compromising air safety.

The matter has been brought to the notice of the Director-General of Civil Aviation by an alert Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut, who is also a Consultative Committee member of the Ministry of Civil Aviation. Mr Raut has taken pains after being informed by a passenger travelling by that flight (AI 172) in obtaining the records and other technical details.

On January 25, Capt T Manilal is believed to have travelled supernumerary on the Mumbai-Frankfurt route and stayed on board the aircraft during its two-hour halt without deplaning. Thereafter Capt Manilal operated the same aircraft trans-Atlantic from Frankfurt to Chicago.

The DGCA in its air safety regulation mandates an upper limit of nine and a half hours of flight time and flight duty time for two Pilot operations. Further, the DGCA through its letter in February 2002 has made it clear that the supernumerary or passenger hours of pilots shall be counted towards their flight time.

Mr Raut, in his letter to the DGCA on January 28 has pointed out that Capt Manilal has put in a flight time of 17 hours and 55 minutes; flight duty time of about 21 hours and 45 minutes and total fight duty hours from the time of leaving his residence in Mumbai to being allotted his hotel room in Chicago of nearly 24 hours.

The MP maintained that Capt Manilal has clearly violated the Aeronautical Information Circulars (AIC) and the Civil Aviation Rules and flight safety regulations. In respect of aircraft operations too, the DGCA has stressed that "the Chief of Operations apart from the individual pilot shall be overall responsible for ensuring compliance with the Flight Duty Time Limitations (FDTL) as contained in AIC 28, 1992."

Further, Mr Raut has drawn the DGCA's pointed attention to AI's Director (Operations) Capt M K Hathi "perpetually flouting the safety regulations of the DGCA with arrogant impunity."

He impressed upon the DGCA to intervene and take immediate action. He felt Capt Hathi and Capt Manilal "must be de-rostered from active flight duties immediately and action initiated against them for endangering the lives of passengers under the Indian Aircraft Rules."

Meanwhile, the DGCA has asked the Chairman-cum-Managing Director of Air-India Mr V Thulasidas to clarify if the carrier had gone ahead with training of Commanders as Instructor/Examiner on Boeing 777-200 type of aircraft without meeting the requirements of a minimum of 500 hours on the said type of aircraft as Pilot in Command (PIC). Preferring to err on the side of caution, Air-India has preferred training as Instructor/Examiner after 1000 hours as PIC.

The DGCA in its letter to Air-India dated January 25 has made it clear any attempt to circumvent the CAR particularly "flying experience shall not be accepted." The letter acknowledged that Air-India had sought the DGCA's approval on January 18 for approving Capt Amitabh Singh as Instructor in Boeing 777-200 type of aircraft. The DGCA has taken special note of a report in The Tribune that Air-India had peremptorily relaxed the flying experience requirements of 500 hours as PIC on the said aircraft, namely B 777-200. "As mentioned in the news report, Capt Amitabh Singh was having only 350 hours as PIC at the time of scheduling him for the training on October 1, 2005," the DGCA noted.

DGCA's Capt H Y Samant, Flight Operations Inspector, has sought comments from Mr Thulasidas within three days from the date of the issue of the letter. "The request for approval of Capt Amitabh Singh as Instructor on B 777-200 aircraft shall be processed on receipt of the comments," Capt Samant added.

On the alleged flouting of training standards and rules by Air- India, Nadiad's Member of Parliament Dinsha J Patel had reeled off a strongly worded letter to the DGCA on January 23. He reminded the DGCA of its own clarification that the regulatory authority "will not grant approval as Instructor/Examiner for its Commanders if they do not meet the CAR."

Mr Patel, who is a member of the Parliament's Standing Committee of the Ministry of External Affairs, observed that despite the firm stand of the DGCA "Air India has forwarded the papers of one Capt Amitabh Singh to the DGCA for endorsement as instructor though he did not possess the required experience when the training was commenced. I must forewarn you that the DGCA must not dilute the stand taken by Capt R K Dutta, the Chief Flight Operations Inspector (CFOI) barely three months back and the flight safety standards must not be compromised under any circumstances whatsoever."

On January 20, Mr Raut also wrote to the DGCA drawing the organisation's attention to training of B 777-200 Instructors/Examiners of Air India. He found the DGCA's reluctance to respond to his letters and several reminders as a public representative intriguing and "it gives me the impression that you are not acting as an independent regulatory Authority and are being pressurised by vested interests." He warned the DGCA that if he does not get a response from them in a stipulated time frame, he will personally meet the Prime minister and apprise him of the regulatory authority's "callous and indifferent attitude."


Airport staff threaten strike
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 30
The airport privatisation programme of the government seems to be running further into rough weather with the airport employees threatening to disrupt air services nationwide if the government proceeded with the privatisation process for modernisation of Delhi and Mumbai airports.

Even as there were strong indications that financial bids of private consortia would be opened tomorrow the airport employees threatened to close the airports. The warning by the AAI Employees Joint Forum came after their 90-minute meeting with Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel here, following which the forum convener, M K Ghoshal, said, “We have so far not taken any steps to inconvenience the air traveller”.

“But if the government went ahead with privatisation we could even consider closure of all airports. It could be a massive industrial action, the responsibility of which will squarely lie on the government,” he said.

Meanwhile, sources said that the financial bids of shortlisted private consortia would be opened tomorrow and the empowered Group of Ministers informed about it.

“If financial bids are forcibly opened, then it will lead to confrontation between the government and the employees,” the forum leaders said.

At the talks, both Mr Patel and the forum leaders stuck to their stands, with Mr Ghoshal saying, “We agreed to disagree”.

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