Spicejet fliers could be travelling in a poorly serviced plane or with a fatigued pilot. The no-frill airline has begun using its Boeing B737 fleet cockpit crew as engineers at smaller airports. One out of every five domestic fliers travels by the airline.
Pilots are faced with additional pressure to maintain a 30-minute turnaround time for the next flight despite the dual role.
“An aircraft maintenance engineer (AME) is supposed to check around 75 items during a stopover of about 20 minutes,” said a retired Boeing commander requesting anonymity. The AME also refuels an aircraft, which takes about 10 minutes.
Senior pilots said it’s “humanly impossible” to perform both roles within 30 minutes because pilots have to perform other duties such a pre-flight briefing, checking trim and load sheets that contain the weight distribution on a plane.
“Shortcuts are bound to be taken, which means many unfit planes could be flying,” said another senior pilot.
The airline introduced the move in April and began training pilots about two months ago. An internal mail dated April 23 accessed by HT stated that the move was meant to avoid flying AMEs to airports without engineering support.
Worse, the airline backed the move by citing a Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) rule applicable during emergencies.
“If a flight gets diverted to a small airfield without engineering support, a certified pilot could perform the basic check but it cannot be a routine policy,” said RK Khanna, deputy director general, DGCA (western region).
On Thursday the Spicejet spokesperson said the airline would respond in a day but didn’t revert till the time of going to press.