Training captains could lose their seniority badges and cap if they are found favouring junior pilots while testing their skills.
Taking cognisance of the rising instances of trainers being partial while assessing pilots, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has warned that guilty trainers would lose their privileges or be grounded for three years. A trainer’s post is the senior-most rank for a pilot. A trainer operates fewer flights and his primary responsibility is to train and test pilots at regular intervals to ensure flight safety.
Trainers usually occupy the jump seat (a foldable chair located behind the pilot’s seat) in the cockpit and monitor pilots in action. “Many commander and co-pilots are related to training captains. This sometimes leads to undue favouritism and shielding of errors during routine checks,” said a senior DGCA official requesting anonymity.
For instance, last April, a co-pilot with Kingfisher Airlines went scot-free despite his involvement in a safety lapse that put lives of 46 passengers at Mumbai airport at risk.
While taxiing for take-off, the aircraft’s nose wheel collapsed because the co-pilot began rolling the plane while it was still attached to a tow-tractor (vehicle used to tow planes).
Sources had told Hindustan Times that the co-pilot was the son of Captain N.P. Puri, the then vice-president of flight training with Kingfisher Airlines. Also, Captain A.J.S. Toor, the commander of the flight, was Puri’s batchmate (27th batch of Indian Airlines).
The circular has also directed training captains to be more disciplined. For instance, a training captain found drunk on duty would not be allowed to perform his role as a trainer for three years. A failure in assessing and reporting an error could also ground a trainer for three years. The regulator will also monitor a pilot’s training course to qualify as a trainer.
This means that the Directorate General of Civil Aviation will scrutinise the records of aircraft manufacturers, who conduct such courses for pilots. The circular states the privileges of a training captain could be withdrawn if the regulator finds any gaps in the courses.