With winter fast approaching, the government has decided to crack the whip on airlines that fail to appoint the required number of pilots adequately trained to navigate jets in thick fog.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) held a meeting on Monday to review the preparedness of the airlines. A top civil aviation ministry official, who did not wish to be named, said several airlines would fall significantly short of the required number of pilots as per the laid down norms.
“These airlines, who fall short of the required number of pilots trained in CAT II and CAT III instrument landing systems (ILS), would either have to voluntarily reschedule their flights that land and take off from the Delhi airport during day time when the visibility is much higher or employ more trained pilots,” said the official.
The CAT III ILS was installed at the Delhi airports about three years ago, but only a small percentage of domestic pilots know how to use it. While CAT II trained pilots can land within a visibility of 350 meters, those trained in CAT III can land and take off with a visibility of 200 meters.
The number of trained pilots required for meeting the stipulated norms are in direct proportion to the number of take-offs and landings taking place in the morning (5 to 10 a.m.) and evening hours (6 to 10 p.m.). For instance, if a particular airline undertakes five flights in these hours from Delhi, it is required to have a minimum of 11 (number of flights multiplied by two plus 10 per cent) pilots trained to handle the CAT II and CAT III navigation systems.
The DGCA had issued norms in December last year as a thick blanket of fog enveloped Delhi resulting in frequent flight delays and causing major inconvenience to passengers.
“They have had sufficient time to train their pilots as the circular detailing the norms were issued in December last year,” said the official.
Jet Airways executive director Saroj Datta refused to comment saying: “It is a requirement which we need to furnish to DGCA and we have done it.” Sources said Jet Airways and Indian (Airlines) have the sufficient number of pilots to meet the norms.
Jeh Wadia of Go Air refused to divulge the number of trained pilots the airline has but said it has sufficient pilots to meet the norms.
In the case of private airlines, most pilots are trained in CAT II. A CEO of a private low-cost airline said the DGCA circular issued last year makes it mandatory for all operators to qualify for CAT I for one year and within the next six months CAT II training has to be given.
“That means that an airline can only apply for CAT III after one and half years of its operations in CAT I. How can a new airline be CAT III in one year is beyond anyone’s guess,” he said.
An airline has to invest Rs 7,50,000 per head in training their pilots, besides the recurring costs of Rs 2,50,000 annually per pilot to keep the licence running.