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Most pilots still untrained

delhi Updated: Nov 30, 2011 23:36 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
Delhi airport

The Delhi airport has come a long way in the last few years. It has one of the world's largest terminals and a third runway that can handle flights in near zero visibility, besides other technical upgrades.

But does this mean a painless fog season this winter for flyers? Not really.

The Indira Gandhi International airport has runways equipped with Category (CAT) III-B instrument landing systems (ILS) which allow aircrafts to land even when general visibility is zero and the runway visual range (RVR, the runway as visible to a pilot landing an aircraft) is 50 metres.

Most airlines, however, don't have enough pilots trained to use the CAT III-B ILS.

The latest numbers of CAT III-B trained pilots in domestic airlines reveal that the story has remained similar, year after year.

Even though there has been an increase in the total number of such pilots, the lion's share of these pilots - 677 - is with Air India. The other two full-cost airlines - Kingfisher and Jet Airways - are a distant second and third.

IndiGo is the only budget carrier with a respectable figure of 238 trained pilots. While JetLite and SpiceJet have CAT III-A trained pilots (who can operate up to 200 RVR), they don't have a single CAT III-B trained pilot.

This is in spite of regular warnings by the regulator directorate general of civil aviation (DGCA) to train sufficient number of pilots to fly during dense fog.

Last winter, IGI Airport saw 105 hours of dense fog during which most domestic airlines - except Air India - operated few or zero flights.

There are, however, some reasons because of which airlines would rather wait for fog to lift or cancel their flights instead of training their pilots.

"It costs R3 to 4 lakh to train a pilot in CAT III and add to it the cost of R2 lakh for refresher courses each year. Before a pilot is trained for CAT III system, he/she has to be CAT I and then CAT II trained and the total cost comes to around R10 lakh," said an airline official, on condition of anonymity.

And since dense fog is seen for about 15 to 20 days each year, private carriers say it is not worth the expenditure.