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HindustanTimes Fri,18 Apr 2014

Pilot shortage bogs AI down

Soubhik Mitra, Hindustan Times  Mumbai, December 25, 2012
First Published: 02:02 IST(25/12/2012) | Last Updated: 02:47 IST(25/12/2012)

Flight delays owing to shortage of pilots continued to plague Air India’s domestic fleet even as one of its two pilots’ union claimed that the airline requires 200 new pilots to operate smoothly.


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Sources said the national carrier has been facing flight delays ranging from 30 minutes to an hour daily. On Sunday, lack of crew delayed a Riyadh-bound flight from Mumbai by 16 hours leaving hundreds of passengers stranded at the city airport.

Last month, the Indian Commercial Pilots’ Association (ICPA) had sent several reminders to the airline management to hire 200 pilots citing the shortage but the recruitment process is yet to begin.

While 40 pilots operating narrow-bodied jets until four months ago were selected for training on the newly inducted Boeing 787 Dreamliner, only one has completed the training to operate flights without supervision.

“The airline is spending lakhs on training these pilots and nobody is being held accountable for their productivity. Most of the them are being paid without flying,” said a senior AI official, requesting anonymity.

According to the rules laid down by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), former narrow-bodied jet pilots have to complete 100 hours of flying on 787 under the supervision of trainer rank pilot because the Dreamliner is a twin aisle aircraft. Going by the current pace of training on 787, these pilots could be underutilised for another six months, said sources. Of the four 787s inducted by Air India, only one has been deployed on a long haul international route. As a result, these pilots would take take months to complete 100 hours of training.

Sources said flight delays would soar over the next two months as delays due to fog could add to the problem.

“Already, the airline is falling short of three to four commanders every day. The situation could worsen on days when flights get held up by fog,” said another AI official, requesting anonymity. AI spokesperson did not respond to HT’s calls.

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