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'AI Express lacks engineering staff, doctors'

Air India Express seriously lacked engineering staff and did not have a permanent doctor at the Mangalore airport to conduct pre-flight medical checks on the pilots and the cabin crew operating flights from there, the Court of Inquiry on Mangalore air crash was informed today.

delhi Updated: Sep 07, 2010 23:24 IST

Air India Express seriously lacked engineering staff and did not have a permanent doctor at the Mangalore airport to conduct pre-flight medical checks on the pilots and the cabin crew operating flights from there, the Court of Inquiry (COI) on Mangalore air crash was informed on Tuesday.

"We are short of staff and for engineering work and spares we are totally dependent on the Air India," a senior Air India Express official said before the COI in New Delhi.

The six-member COI was set up to find out the causes of the crash of Air India Express flight IX-812 at Mangalore airport on May 22 while returning from Dubai, killing 158 people.

Deposing before the COI, the official said that Air India Express was promised by the parent company, National Aviation Company of India Ltd (NACIL), that they would recruit the staff for them "but till date we have got only three staff".

Air India Express is the low cost arm of the national carrier which operates most of its flights to Gulf countries.

During the hearing, one of the members of COI observed that the airline had not faced any major technical problems or snag as the aircrafts were new but they should get the adequate number of staff.

The budget carrier of Air India did not have a permanent doctor at the Mangalore's Bajpe International Airport before the crash of IX-812.

"Though a doctor was appointed on contract basis he could not continue due to distance from the city and odd working hours," said L P Nakwa, Executive Director Personnel.

She admitted that Mangalore and Amritsar were the two stations where no doctors were available for pre-flight medical checks. But after the crash, one doctor has been appointed.

The CoI was also informed that due to ban on recruitment of doctors by the Ministry of Civil Aviation, the national carrier does not have a permanent doctors on its roll.

"We have appointed doctors on contract, as the Ministry has put a ban on permanent appointment. We have not recruited any doctors on permanent basis since last 15 years," she said, adding we have not got any written permission from the Ministry to start the process for permanent recruitment.

She also said it was hard to find a doctor even on contract basis, as the odd working hours was the biggest problem for them.

"We are not getting good response even after advertising for the same."

She admitted that no medical records of the expat pilots were kept with the airlines, as they were not governed by the company rules and they have different rules related to medical and other leaves.

On this, the COI observed that medical records of expat pilots should be kept with the airlines so that it could be referred in future.