Few pilots to fly new private planes | mumbai | Hindustan Times
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Few pilots to fly new private planes

Arun Lohiya, who heads Bafna Air, a Vile Parle-based private charter company, has interviewed about 50 pilots for the King 200 aircraft recently bought by his company.

mumbai Updated: Mar 31, 2010 00:37 IST
Soubhik Mitra

Arun Lohiya, who heads Bafna Air, a Vile Parle-based private charter company, has interviewed about 50 pilots for the King 200 aircraft recently bought by his company.

Despite having 4,000 to 5,000 hours of flying experience,

none of the applicants had the knowledge to operate the new-age aircraft.

Unlike conventional cockpits where pilots have to physically manoeuvre the controls to set the basic parameters of flying such as speed, height and direction, the pilots in new-age planes have to keys in the commands in a touch screen computer.

“Even the best of pilots in conventional cockpits are not comfortable in the new set up,” said Lohiya.

Private charter operators, who cater to about 10 lakh people in India — mostly industrialists and corporate heads — are facing this problem as they are switching to a state-of-the-art fleet with automated glass cockpits. Glass cockpits are popular because apart from being safer, they are low on maintenance.

Last week, Hindustan Times had reported that the Directorate General of Civil Aviation had issued a circular to airlines to operate flights in the manual mode because most pilots were not adequately equipped to handle automated controls.

“In a glass cockpit, the pilot’s role changes dramatically. He becomes a robot,” said Vijay Madan, managing director, AAA Aviation. “It is extremely difficult for a pilot used to manual controls to make the adjustment.”

He suggests that the transition should be slower. “The digital set up is fine. But there should be manual controls as well.”

Lack of people to train pilots is the main problem. “Very few trainers are used to the digital set up. The best option is to learn it from the manufacturers,” said Lohiya. But neither pilots nor fleet owners are keen on footing the training cost of Rs 50,000 per pilot.

Last year, a study by the US-based National Transportation Safety Board cited that proper training is one of the key components to reduce the rate of accidents.