Air India Express plays with lives of passengers

Endangering the lives of thousands of passengers, Air India Express, the low-cost arm of national carrier Air India, has been found to have violated the flight duty time limitation (FDTL) regulations for their pilots (rendering them prone to fatigue), investigations by aviation regulator DGCA have revealed.

In an indictment of Air India Express on the matter, DGCA discovered that the airline had 'misused' the specific 'dispensation' on FDTL given by DGCA for one sector and had illegally applied it to all its sectors 'in contravention of aircraft rules'.

DGCA also found that 'privilege/casual/sick leave' for pilots are being used as part of their rest period in violation of rules. It also found that 'no weekly off (for pilots) in many cases were observed'.

Air India and Air India Express officials said the air-safety violations pointed out by the DGCA were under examination.

Commenting on the acute shortage of pilots, the DGCA audit said, “There is an urgent need to recruit more pilots and improve the (aircraft-pilot) ratio for safe operations.”

It noted that the current ratio is 'insufficient to sustain operations...' Air India Express, which operates both domestic and international flights to destinations such as the Gulf, has been under the safety scanner ever since the Mangalore air crash two years ago.

“DGCA dispensation of 33 hours in a week... for Kerala-Dammam (Gulf) sector as given on February 22, 2011, was misused and was applied in all sectors in contravention to aircraft rules. The operator issued a company advice on April 7, 2011, that DGCA had granted dispensation for Air India Charters Ltd (that runs AI Express) for 33 hours per week instead of 30 hours...,” DGCA found while auditing AICL in September 2011.

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