The aviation regulator, which released the new rules for flight duty timings of pilots and cabin crew on September 2, has allegedly ignored safety concerns expressed by five independent pilot bodies.
Pilot bodies from across the world had asked the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to rework the rules when the draft was issued in March. They claimed that the proposed rules lacked scientific research about pilot fatigue and sleep patterns.
The pilots are claiming that the airline regulator did not make any changes in the draft. The new Flight Duty Timing Limitations, which regulates the working and rest hours of pilots and cabin crew, will come into effect from February 15, 2012.
In April, Moebus Aviation, a Swiss aviation consultant hired by Jet Airways, had warned the regulator that its rule makes Indian pilots fly for 125 hours a month as compared 100 hours in the US and UK. Also, a month comprises 28 days in the West as opposed to 30 days in India. The report also stated that duty shifts for pilot operating flights at night (8pm to 5am) were 25% longer than American pilots according to the new rule.
The Society for Welfare of Indian Pilots (SWIP), a body formed by Jet Airways’ pilots, slammed the new rule in a letter to the DGCA on September 9.
“Even the Air India Express crash at Mangalore that killed 182 people last year has failed to change our traditional approach towards flight fatigue,” said a SWIP spokesperson.
Pilots have also criticised the fact that the drafting panel did not have a single expert on crew fatigue. “The panel only comprised bureaucrats and a general physician,” said a senior Air India pilot. DGCA chief Bharat Bhushan was unavailable for comment.