The aviation safety regulator has pulled up several airlines after it found that many pilots have been skipping a mandatory check essential for passenger safety.
According to a directive issued by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) last week, “many pilots” skipped proficiency checks, which is a compulsory test that assesses the pilots’ flying skills twice a year.
“Airline operators and pilots ignoring the directive could face strict penal action,” said a senior DGCA official.
During a proficiency check, a DGCA-approved trainer captain monitors pilots’ flying skills from the time they start the aircraft engine till they switch it off after reaching the destination.
The directive emphasised the testing of pilots during emergencies and abnormal situations mid-air such as recovering an aircraft from an unusual altitude, engine snags and handling fire emergencies on board.
“Pilots avoid these checks because they fear a poor performance could get them grounded with a 50% cut in their monthly pay. But allowing them to fly is a safety risk,” said an air safety expert requesting anonymity.
The check also entails mid-air scares such as emergency passenger evacuation, handling rough weather and incapacitation of cockpit crew.
This is the second time the regulator has found widespread safety violations by crew working with scheduled airlines. In September, a government-appointed safety committee set up after the Air India Express Mangalore crash in 2010 that killed 158 people had submitted names of 16 senior pilots for skipping proficiency checks.
Worse, the report by the Civil Aviation Safety Regulatory Council had stated that these were the senior most pilots who operate as examiners and check pilots. “These pilots are supposed to monitor the junior cockpit crew but they themselves were found blatantly violating rules,” said added the safety expert.