Pilots, aviation safety regulator on warpath over feigning illness | mumbai news | Hindustan Times
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Pilots, aviation safety regulator on warpath over feigning illness

Pilots in India are preparing for a head-on collision with the aviation safety regulator in the wake of an upcoming policy which threatens to ground aviators for feigning illness.

mumbai Updated: Nov 15, 2016 01:25 IST
Soubhik Mitra
mumbai flights
Email exchanges between at least four pilots’ groups that HT accessed, indicate an industry-wide protest against the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) draft policy issued last week.(HT File Photo)

Pilots in India are preparing for a head-on collision with the aviation safety regulator in the wake of an upcoming policy which threatens to ground aviators for feigning illness.

Email exchanges between at least four pilots’ groups that HT accessed, indicate an industry-wide protest against the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) draft policy issued last week.

The bodies include pilots’ unions from domestic airlines and the Indian chapter of an international pilots’ lobby.

In addition to reporting the matter to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), the UN-appointed aviation watchdog, pilots are moving court.

“This policy alone is enough for a downgrade by the ICAO,” said a senior pilot, hinting at the downgrade in India’s air safety ratings by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in 2014.

The issue stems from the Diwali weekend, when more than 100 Jet Airway flights were delayed or cancelled allegedly because many pilots called in sick.

While the airline accused pilots of reporting sick during festivals and weekends, the pilots said it was a protest against an automated rostering software that failed to measure flight fatigue properly.

“When 30 to 35 pilots out of 1,500 call in sick, how is that a mass sick protest?” asked one of the pilots’ groups, adding that operations might have been hit owing to poor rostering and scheduling of flights.

Flight operations got back to normal after two days, following talks between the airline’s pilots’ union and management, but less than a week later the DGCA put out its draft policy against ‘sick pilots’. It stated that a pilot could be grounded for good if found faking illness.

“Airlines could use this clause to target pilots. Even those under the weather could be forced to operate flights,” read another observation.