Helicopters ferrying workers between Juhu airport and the oil rigs in Bombay High were grounded for a few hours on Thursday owing to a flash strike by pilots working with Pawan Hans Helicopters Limited (PHHL).
Most of the oil rig workers affected by the disruption worked for the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), said sources.
The pilots were agitating against the alleged violation of flight duty timing restrictions by the PHHL management and the transfer of a senior pilot to Delhi, they said. “The company has been forcing us to operate flights in excess of the flight duty timing rules laid down by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA),” claimed a senior pilot with PHHL who did not wish to be named. Flight duty timing rules are laid down as a safety measure because if the crew is fatigued it could endanger passenger safety.
DGCA chief Bharat Bhushan said he had not received any complaint about violation of flight duty timing rules. “I was told that they were protesting against the transfer of a pilot and that the problem had been sorted out in two hours,” said Bhushan.
The PHHL spokesperson was not available for comment.
According to sources, unrest among pilots over operating flights in excess of the stipulated duty hours started after the home ministry suspended the licence of Global Vectra Helicorp Limited (GVHL), a private chopper company that used to handle the bulk of ONGC offshore travel requirements, in May.
GVHL’s licence was suspended because Ravi Rishi, the promoter of the company was under the scanner of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
“Since GVHL operations were grounded, the entire load fell on PHHL. As a result, their pilots were allegedly made to operate flights in excess of the flying hours permitted by the DGCA,” said a senior operation official from Juhu airport.