The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has benched an examiner-rank Jet Airways pilot for a series of safety violations last week. Captain Manoj Airon is facing charges of occupying the co-pilot’s seat on a Delhi-Bengaluru flight when he was booked to travel as a passenger, said sources in the aviation safety regulator.
To save himself from getting caught, he allegedly deleted the flight’s record from the airline’s rostering system. But a parallel entry in the tech-log book signed by pilots before takeoffs exposed the alleged violation, sources added.
“We found evidence on the violations during a surprise inspection,” said a senior air safety official from the DGCA requesting anonymity. The official added that the inspection was conducted on an anonymous complaint against the pilot.
A Jet Airways spokesperson neither confirmed nor denied the charge. “As this matter is currently under investigation we cannot comment on the details. We are extending full co-operation to DGCA for the investigation. At Jet Airways, the safety of our guests and staff is of paramount importance,” read a statement issued by the airline.
The safety regulator’s probe also found that Captain Airon pilot’s profiency check, a mandatory by-yearly test, was pending and he had also operated some flights in violation of the Flight Duty Timing Limitations (FDTL) rules.
Flight rosters for pilots and cabin crew are made based on scientific studies that link flying hours with travel fatigue. Pilots violating these limits indirectly put passengers at risk, added the DGCA official.
Last month, the regulator had taken action against about three dozen SpiceJet pilots, five Air Pegasus pilots and some Jet Airways pilots for operating flights beyond the permissible safety limit in a day.
For the lucrative overtime allowances, pilots bend rules and airlines often turn a blind eye towards such violations owing to industry-wide shortage of commanders, said independent air safety experts. “A pilot gets overtime of Rs10,000 per hour. That explains the surge in FDTL lapses,” said a former member of the Civil Aviation Safety Advisory Council (CASAC), a government appointed independent air safety panel set up after the Air India Express crash in Mangalore that killed 158 people in 2010.
Captain Airon’s examiner status was withdrawn citing a similar charge a few years ago. Examiners are senior most pilots chosen from an airline by the DGCA to double up as in-house watchdogs.