A new set of rules governing flight duty hours for pilots and cabin crew personnel in India came into effect on March 25. But the aviation regulator has permitted Jet Airways and Air India to operate its long haul international flights as per the old rules, after the airlines sought certain clarifications. The concession was communicated by the aviation regulator to airline CEOs in a letter dated March 24. [HT has a copy of the letter.]
According to the new rules, airlines must depute additional cockpit crew on long haul flights to increase flight duty hours during emergencies, such as turbulent weather or industrial strikes at airports abroad.
“Since the erstwhile rules did not have these provisions, Jet Airways and Air India have sought clarification from the civil aviation ministry. Therefore, we have permitted them to operate such flights as per the rules till the time we get directives from the ministry,” said Bharat Bhushan, director general, Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).
He added that up until now, airlines sought dispensation for extending flight duties on case-to-case basis, which will not be possible with the new rules coming into effect.
A Jet Airways spokesperson denied that the airline had sought any clarification from the ministry. “Like every airline operator, Jet Airways was asked and has thus commented on the new rules. We will follow the rules in line with best international practices,” said the spokesperson for Jet. The Air India spokesperson did not comment on HT’s query.
Air safety experts said that since the DGCA took more than two years to come up with the new rules, there was ample time to clear any doubts. “Flight duty hours restrictions are laid down so that crew fatigue does not endanger passenger safety. Since crew operating long haul flights are most vulnerable to fatigue, the ministry should not waste any time enforcing the new rule on such flights,” said captain Mohan Ranganathan, an air safety expert.
He added that rules followed currently are outdated because they were laid down in 1992, when Indian carriers did not even operate long distance international flights.