The foreign origin of the pilot of the plane that crashed on Saturday has put the spotlight back on the contentious issue of expatriate pilots hired by Indian carriers.
The Air India Express aircraft was under the command of a British national of Serbian origin, 53-year-old Captain Z Glusica. Captain H.S. Ahluwalia was the co-pilot.
The Indian Commercial Pilots’ Association (ICPA) — an association of Air India pilots — wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday questioning as to why different rules were being applied for Indian and foreign pilots.
Foreign pilots are not required to obtain an Indian licence, said the letter signed by Captain S. Sabu, general secretary, ICPA.
“When pilots belonging to the Indian Air Force, including pilots who have flown VVIPs…, are required to obtain an Indian licence when they fly in the civil arena, it is intriguing that foreign pilots are not required to obtain one,” the letter stated.
The letter also said the current norms even exempted the foreign pilots from appearing for periodic medical examinations in the country where the airline is registered, which is a global practice.
“This has resulted in at least two cases in the last year of foreign pilots collapsing unconscious onboard Indian passenger aircraft?” it said.
“Overall there is no accountability. As a result a foreign pilot flying in India cannot be penalised. If a foreign pilot flying for an Indian carrier is involved in an accident or incident he can leave the country and go back to his land with a clean record.”
Air India that has 136 foreign
pilots had recently written to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation DGCA that it would not be able to meet the deadline of July 2011 to phase out its expatriate pilots as it needs them to fly the new aircraft the ailing airline is acquiring.