About 40 SpiceJet pilots are under the DGCA scanner for operating flights beyond the maximum flying hours permitted by the aviation regulator, putting passenger safety at risk.
According to sources, a probe by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has revealed violations in the flight and duty time limitations (FDTL) — the maximum hours a pilot can fly in a day — prescribed by the safety regulator.
“Our inquiry is complete. It has revealed serious FDTL violations by around three dozen SpiceJet pilots. The file has been put up for action before DGCA chief M Sathiyavathy, who is not in the country at present,” said a DGCA official.
Non-stop flying can result in fatigue and result in the pilots to doze off. Exhausted pilots are a sensitive issue with regulators worldwide and have been the cause of several fatal air crashes.
The violation was found on SpiceJet’s Amritsar-Dubai and Dubai-Calicut flights operated by the same set of pilots in a single day.
“To operate the morning flight from Amritsar, pilots were found to be taking the early morning flight from Delhi to Amritsar, which is also added up in the duty hours of the pilots. They were reaching Calicut from Dubai late at night,” said a source. Calicut is one of the 11 airports designated as “critical” by the DGCA.
“This is an industry practice (pilots travelling as passengers to other stations to operate flights). This was brought to our notice by the DGCA (on transit time being included in work hours)…we have taken corrective action,” said SpiceJet spokesperson Ajay Jasra.
The DGCA had sacked the flight safety chief of Air Pegasus and suspended five pilots last month after a safety audit revealed safety violations including FDTL violation. Sleepy pilots have been blamed for several air crashes such as the Colgan Air crash in February 2009. In the Mangalore Air India Express crash, that claimed 158 lives, the captain had slept through most of the flight.