Airline staff put air safety at risk; 422 violations recorded last year

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SpiceJet earned a dubious distinction of having the maximum number of employee suspensions by the DGCA, (68), last year.

New Delhi: As many as 422 air-safety violations took place in the country in 2016 — by pilots, cabin crew and aircraft maintenance engineers of major airlines. It’s a sharp increase from the 275 in 2015.

According to sources in air travel regulator DGCA, the spike was due to “heightened surveillance” put in place last year. Out of the 422 cases last year, as many as 272 aviation staffers, including pilots and cabin crew, were suspended for varying time-periods. Also, a total of 108 employees were let off with official DGCA warnings.

SpiceJet earned a dubious distinction of having the maximum number of employee suspensions by the DGCA, (68), last year. Jet Airways, which was second on the list, saw 53 suspensions and Air India landed third with 47. IndiGo was fourth on the list with 41.

Violations included failing the pre-flight medical test for alcohol detection, operating flights beyond validity of pilots’ proficiency checks, allowing unauthorised entry into cockpits and exceeding the flight duty time limitation (FDTL). A violation of the FDTL is taken very seriously as the extended hours can cause pilot fatigue.

Consumption of alcohol before flights is also a serious offence. The rules of air travel regulation Directorate-General of Civil Aviation state that no person “acting as, or carried in aircraft for the purpose of acting as pilot, commander, navigator, engineer, cabin crew or the other operating member of the crew thereof, shall have taken or used any alcoholic drink, sedative, narcotic, or stimulant drug preparation within 12 hours of the commencement of the flight or taken or use any such preparation in the course of the flight”’.

Of the 108 employees who were let off with warnings in 2016, Jet Airways accounted for as many as 36, with SpiceJet again following not too far behind with 29 such cases. Of the 42 airline employees who were taken off the duty roster for varying time-periods, Jet Airways accounted for one-third of the list at 14, while IndiGo was next with nine.

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