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AI pilots threaten pullout

Air India pilots are threatening not to fly to “unsafe” Afghanistan, reports Tushar Srivastava

delhi Updated: Mar 04, 2010 11:47 IST
Tushar Srivastava

Air India pilots are threatening not to fly to “unsafe” Afghanistan.

Repeated attacks on Indian interests in the war-torn country have made the pilots jittery. The Indian Commercial Pilots’ Association (ICPA) —a union of pilots of the national carrier — has written to the state-run National Aviation Company of India Limited (Nacil) on the “deteriorating” situation in Afghanistan and is threatening “to ask its members not to operate flights in such unsafe conditions”.

Nacil — the firm formed after the merger of Air India and Indian Airlines — is the only Indian-registered International Air Transport Association member that operates service between India and Afghanistan.

Referring to the latest Nato offensive, the association, in a letter to the Nacil management, has said the situation in Kabul is deteriorating again. Calls and SMSes to Jeetendra Bhargava, a Nacil executive director, remained unanswered.

No special procedure for “unlawful interference” has been devised after the Kandahar hijack, it says. “No ‘communication failure’ procedure had been circulated to our flight crew, no topographical maps of this region (Kabul) have been provided…”

Pilots have also complained about poor quality of air traffic control and absence of clear norms on if “low visibility take-offs” are permitted from Kabul.

The pilots’ body has asked Nacil to clarify the issues at the earliest, failing which it has threatened to ask the members not to operate flights.