National carrier Air India issuing a crucial flight operation circular without the aviation regulator’s approval is not a stray incident.
The national carrier has been charged of such violations on at least three other occasions in the past.
On Saturday, the airline abruptly withdrew a circular allowing them to indefinitely increase the duty timings of pilots and cabin crew during emergencies because the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had not cleared the move.
Worse, all the notices issued without prior approval of the DGCA relate to working hours of crew members and pilots, which impact air safety.
For instance, in December 2009, the airline had issued an operation advisory reducing the vertical speed limit to be achieved by pilots while landing.
Pilots missing the new limit, which was below the level approved by the aircraft manufacturer, faced action. Captain Zlatko Glusica, pilot of the Air India Express flight that crashed in Mangalore in May killing 158 people, was also pulled up by the airline three weeks before the crash.
A month later, when one of the pilots’ unions took up the matter with the DGCA, the regulator said the circular was issued without their approval.
Similarly, in April 2003 Air India issued a circular claiming that the DGCA had allowed them to operate a 10-hour non-stop flight with just two pilots, which turned out to be a lie. Both these points have been mentioned in the Indian Pilots’ Guild’s affidavit submitted to the Mangalore crash Court of Inquiry in September.
Recently, the airline told the cabin crew that it has permission from the DGCA to reduce the rest hours for crew on board from five hours to four hours. The DGCA had not approved the move.
Similarly, the airline denied knowledge of a DGCA directive that made crew strength of 16 mandatory on long-haul flights. The matter came to light when DGCA officials met the crew and the management official together last month.
An Air India spokesperson did not respond to HT’s query.