In an unprecedented move, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has taken action against 63 SpiceJet pilots – more than ten per cent of its total pilot workforce – for operating flights beyond the maximum flying hours permitted by the safety regulator thereby putting passenger safety at risk.
Hindustan Times had first reported on July 20 that a probe by the DGCA had revealed that nearly 40 SpiceJet had violated the flight duty time limitations (FDTL) – the maximum hours a pilot can fly in a day – prescribed by the safety regulator.
Non-stop flying can result in fatigue and result in the pilots to doze off. Exhausted pilots are a sensitive issue with regulators worldwide and have been the cause of several fatal air crashes.
“During surveillance and subsequent scrutiny of records it has been revealed that 63 pilots of Spicejet had operated flights exceeding flight duty period,” Jayant Sinha, Minister of State for aviation, told Lok Sabha on Thursday.
“Pilots who have exceeded flight duty period more than once have been suspended for 15 days. Warnings have been issued to pilots who have exceeded flight duty period only once,” he said.
SpiceJet refused to comment.
The violations had been found on SpiceJet’s Amritsar-Dubai and Dubai-Kozhikode flights operated by the same set of pilots in a single day. “To operate the morning flight from Amritsar, pilots were found to be taking the early morning flight from Delhi, which is also added up in the duty hours. They were reaching Kozhikode from Dubai late at night,” said an official. Kozhikode is one of the 11 airports designated as “critical” by the DGCA.
Sleepy pilots have been blamed for several air crashes such as the Colgan Air crash in February 2009. In the Mangalore Air India Express crash, that claimed 158 lives, the captain had slept through most of the flight.