Air India pilots’ union has asked the Prime Minister’s office to review the selection of a senior pilot shortlisted for the post of operations’ head, pointing at his alleged tainted record.
In a note sent to national security advisor Ajit Doval on October 22, the Indian Commercial Pilots’ Association (ICPA) alleged that captain Arvind Kathpalia, the airline’s executive director, operations, one of the candidates running for the post, had hushed up safety lapses.
The note alleged that in 2007, captain Kathpalia was executive commander of a Moscow-bound flight carrying then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, which faced a mid-air safety scare. The cockpit crew allegedly forgot to lower the landing gear close to touchdown. They made the correction after being alerted by the Moscow ATC and after noticing the warning sign in the cockpit, the ICPA note added quoting a news article.
“A person with a dubious track record who has endangered the safety of the then Prime Minister is being allowed to be in charge of operations in Air India. This is a matter of safety concern for passengers as well as all VVIP operations,” read the ICPA note adding that captain Kathpalia also failed to disclose a police compliant against him.
“We fail to understand how Air India’s top management in spite of knowing that he has endangered the safety of Air India One is allowing him to continue to function as executive director (operations) and also continue to be in VVIP operations, especially at a time when our honorable Prime Minister is making regular international trips,” stated the ICPA note.
AI chairman and managing director Ashwani Lohani, however, defended the senior pilot. “It is not the prerogative of the unions to decide who shall be in the management. Captain Kathpalia is an outstanding officer,” said Lohani.
In March, the Public Enterprise Selection Board selected captain Kathpalia for the post among five senior AI pilots.