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HindustanTimes Mon,20 Oct 2014

Air India pilot works extra hours, violates safety norms

Soubhik Mitra, Hindustan Times  Mumbai, January 29, 2013
First Published: 02:16 IST(29/1/2013) | Last Updated: 02:17 IST(29/1/2013)

A senior Air India pilot allegedly violated safety rules by operating three back-to-back flights on January 12 and exceeding the work hours specified for the cockpit crew.

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Sources said Captain MP Sharma, a former general manager with AI's flight operations department in the city, operated the flights at the behest of a senior management official.

As per the roster books, Sharma was assigned to operate flight number AI 659 from Delhi to Mumbai. But after he reached the city, he was asked to operate a Mumbai-Muscat flight (AI 985) as its pilot had reported sick and it had been delayed by four hours.

The flight duty timing rules laid down by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) allows flight crew personnel to refuse duty if their work hours exceed the limit it has set.

However, Sharma operated the Mumbai-Muscat flight and flew it back to the city.

This violates two DGCA civil aviation requirements. First, a two-pilot crew is allowed a maximum of two landings at night; Sharma did three. Secondly, a pilot is allowed a maximum duty time of 12 hours a day; that was exceeded by three hours.

"Flight duty hours are regulated because a fatigued crew could endanger passenger safety," said a source.

The incident reflects the trend of poor crew scheduling in the national carrier. Last month, there were at least two instances wherein the lack of spare pilots led to huge delays or last-minute cancellations.

On January 2, 260 passengers booked to travel to Singapore were stranded as the flight was cancelled because the pilot assigned to operate the flight was suspended a day before and the airline did not find a replacement. The incident prompted the civil aviation ministry to suspend a senior airline official.

The AI spokesperson did not respond to HT's calls or the query sent over email.


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