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Scrutiny
 
AVIATION: LOSING THE PLOT
Was that your ‘Last’ Flight?
The Situation with Pilots gives Little hope for Travellers’ Safety
Issue Date - 17/02/2011
 
They say the chance of a person dying on a single flight is pegged at 8 million to 1. When you are in India, don’t feel too much at ease with such a statistic. Errant Indian pilots can put to death any ratio.

After a lot of dilly dallying, the DGCA finally took a decision to suspend the license of any pilot for three months if he/she is caught drunk and suspend it permanently if found repeating the same. Considering the lives of travellers at stake, this move is pathetic. The DGCA should instead have taken a decision to initiate criminal action against any drunken pilot. Even then, pilots mostly escape this test as it is conducted only for vulnerable/important routes. Also, no such test is conducted post flight. As per a 2009 Rajya Sabha report, “Eight pilots of Kingfisher Airlines, six each of Indigo and SpiceJet and three each of Jetlite, Jet Airways and Paramount were detected alcohol-positive during preflight medical examinations.” In 2009, over 40 pilots were found drunk on duty and only 8 were sacked.

The problem doesn’t end here. Indian airports fail to maintain proper infrastructure for safe flights. The Jayaprakash Narayan International airport in Patna, for instance, allows pilots to use only 6,300 ft of the 7,500 ft (against the international norm of 9000 ft) long runway. This forces pilots to take-off at high speeds and calls for planes to fly light. But in most cases, these planes are full till the brim. Runways in Patna (6300 ft), Jammu (6700 ft), Mangalore (table top runway of 8038 ft), Aizawal (3131 ft), Kullu (3690 ft), Port Blair (6000 ft), Agartala (7500 ft), et al are other notable instances. The Mangalore plane crash, which killed 158 people, was due to a short runway and pilot inexperience.

Unless the DGCA lobbies vociferously for infrastructure improvement and also takes criminal and legal action against pilots, one should have statutory warnings printed on every plane ticket.

 

IIPM Think Tank           

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