The aviation safety regulator’s investigation into an audio excerpt of a pilot abusing his junior in a domestic flight’s cockpit voice recorder hit a dead end on Thursday.
A few days ago, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had asked a budget airline to identify the pilots heard abusing and intimidating a junior pilot during a training flight.
But the probe was called off after the airline denied charges on Thursday. “It was an anonymous clip. The airline said the people heard on the tape were not their pilots,” Lalit Gupta, joint director general, DGCA told HT and added that the probe was suspended for want of evidence.
In the two-minute audio clip, a examiner-rank pilot is heard hurling a flurry of expletives on the junior pilot and threatening to ground him.
“This kind of training flight might completely destroy a young aviator’s morale,” said an Airbus commander, who heard the clip.
Poor cockpit resource management (CRM) or unhealthy equation between commanders and junior pilots is a big concern in India, said independent air safety experts.
In 1979, a Nasa psychologist created CRM after studying cockpit conversations for years.
Many US carriers added it to their training modules to improve coordination and dissuade authoritarian mannerisms between two or three members manning the cockpit.
“Co-pilots should be encouraged to fearlessly question captains if they observed anything amiss,” said an air safety expert requesting anonymity.
CRM failures have been linked to most air tragedies, including India’s most fatal Air India Express crash in Mangalore that killed all 158 people on board in 2010. The flight’s co-pilot had warned the senior pilot to abort landing more than once but he ignored the call. The plane skidded off the table-top runway and landed in a gorge.
“The court of inquiry had stated that the airline did not conduct a CRM training for three years,” said a senior civil aviation ministry official.
Some retired pilots said that this culture is prevalent across domestic airlines. “Every airline has a set of DGCA approved examiner-rank pilots. They are so powerful that nobody dares to question or report such violations,” said a Boeing captain.