The country’s aviation safety regulator’s new rules on flight duty timings could have an adverse effect on safety of passengers when compared with regulations recently introduced in the US, said pilots from three domestic carriers.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation’s (DGCA) flight duty timing rules, which was introduced in May last year, permit domestic airlines to assign pilots a flight duty of 125 hours during a period of 30 days. In the US and UK, pilots are not allowed to operate flights for more than 100 hours in 28 days.
With the US aviation regulator’s rules, which were released in December 2011, as their reference point, the Air Line Pilots’ Association, India (ALPA-I) has asked the DGCA to rework its rules. The ALPA-I is formed by pilots from Air India, Jet Airways and Kingfisher Airlines.
According to the association’s letter to the DGCA, sent on January 11, the new rules make work hours for Indian pilots 30% higher than pilots in the US and 16% more than UK pilots.
“Are Indian pilots physiologically superior than American and British pilots? How can there be such a drastic difference in duty hours since both the rules are based on scientific research,” said an ALPA-I spokesperson.
The issue is pertinent to passenger safety as excess work hours can result in crew fatigue. “It seems an Indian life is cheap and the DGCA does not identify flying with a tired pilot as a serious issue,” said the spokesperson.
The Society for Welfare of Indian Pilots (SWIP), formed by Jet Airways pilots, has also raised similar concerns. “An expert panel monitoring the rules has acknowledged that fatigue is directly proportional to flight operations during night, or journeys that involve passing through different time zones. But, duty time limits set for such flights are still high as compared to global standards,” said a SWIP member.
This is the second time pilots have raised safety concerns on the new rules. Last year, the International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Association (IFALPA), which represents more than a lakh pilots across the world, had asked the DGCA to rework the work patterns.
Despite several attempts, DGCA chief Bharat Bhushan did not respond to HT’s calls.