After cracking the whip on pilots with fake flying licences, the aviation watchdog, last week, grounded nine pilots who were operating commercial flights despite crossing the retirement age of 65 years.
The incident came to light during surprise checks conducted by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) in Mumbai in the past two weeks.
According to the Aircraft Act 1937, pilots aged above 65 years can only be hobby fliers. “It is a serious safety violation. We will take strict action against pilots and airlines violating the rule,” said Bharat Bhushan, director general, DGCA.
Eight of the nine pilots caught flying past their retirement age were working with private commercial airlines while one was employed with a city-based private charter company. “Airlines cannot turn a blind eye towards pilots’ records, especially matters dealing with passenger safety,” Bhushan added.
Air safety experts said airlines have been blatantly violating this rule because there is a shortage of senior pilots. “Domestic carriers invest poorly in training their pilots which leads to a shortage of senior commanders. As a result they turn a blind eye towards superannuated pilots continuing with flight duties,” said an air safety expert requesting anonymity.
Captain Mohan Ranganathan another air safety expert, said, “The practice of allowing pilots to continue flying post retirement age is widespread amongst Indian carriers.”