Less than a month after permitting pilots to attend mandatory ground classes online from their homes, India’s aviation safety regulator has pulled back the approval citing a safety gap it may have overlooked.
While the domestic airlines are pushing for the policy change as it would cut down training costs significantly, the regulator fears that the online medium has no checks on pilots who decide to skip classes.
On June 4, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) wrote to a private airline which was the first domestic carrier to get approval. At least two more airlines in India had approached the safety regulator to switch to the new medium known as remote e-learning, said sources.
“There is no way we would know if the person logging in online for the classes is the pilot himself. The regulator wants airlines to look up something such as a webcam to rule out such doubts,” said an official.
The first step towards e-learning for pilots began in 2013, when the DGCA permitted domestic airlines to conduct ground classes online. But it still required pilots to take a break from routine flying duty and spend six-odd days at an airline facility in a year. Last month, a private airline took that provision to another level when it got permission for pilots to attend these classes from any ‘remote’ location, including their homes.
According to DGCA rules, it’s mandatory for all pilots to attend 26 hours of ground classes which largely comprises brushing up basic flying skills and getting updated on new safety regulations. Airlines have been pushing remote e-learning to cut down training costs. According to estimates, the training which currently takes up to 6 days could be reduced by 2 days if they switch to remote e-learning, said industry experts. Independent safety experts said there is a trust deficit in India. “There have been several cases of pilots fudging training records. The regulator is doing to the right thing by treading cautiously,” said a former member of a government-appointed panel.
DGCA chief M Sathiyavathy said chief flight operation inspector, Captain Ajay Singh, was better placed to comment but Capt Singh was unavailable for comment.