Just three days after the pilots’ unions asked members to individually raise concerns about a government proposal threatening to punish cockpit crew feigning illness, hundreds of emails have reached the aviation safety regulator’s inbox.
At least two pilots’ unions - the Indian Commercial Pilots’ Association (ICPA) and the National Aviators Guild (NAG) -- told its members to comment on the draft proposal that warned grounding a pilot for good if found faking sickness. The ICPA is a body comprising more than 800 Air India pilots operating domestic flights and a few operations to nearby countries and the NAG represents about 1,500 pilots from Jet Airways. Together the two airlines cater to at least one out of three domestic fliers in India.
“The proposal has disturbed the entire pilot fraternity in India. We felt individual voices would help us reach the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA),” said one of the union members, requesting anonymity.
HT has accessed some of the pilots’ reactions sent to the DGCA. “Rosters worldwide have pilots on standby on different shifts. It is never dynamic to the extent wherein it changes every day. But the DGCA draft suggests a roster could change daily. How would pilots plan their work-life balance? What is they have a social event at home or want to catch a drink with friends?” read a reaction sent to the DGCA.
“Imagine a pilot’s state of the mind if he or she has to forego social commitments to operate a flight at the last minute. Isn’t that unsafe for flight safety?” read another comment.
DGCA chief BS Bhullar did not respond to HT’s calls.
“Pilots from other airlines, which do not have unions, can voice their reactions through the Indian chapter of global pilots’ lobby group,” said a senior Airbus commander, requesting anonymity.
The conflict began since the Diwali weekend, when more than 100 Jet Airways flights were delayed or cancelled allegedly owing to many pilots reporting sick at the last minute. But many pilots blamed an automated roster introduced by the airline for the disruptions.
Less than a week later, the DGCA put out the draft against ‘sick pilots’.