AI pilots, cabin crew will have to put in more flying hours

Air India pilots and cabin crew will now have to put in more flying hours as Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh has directed the national carrier to go by the rule book.

Last Updated: Sep 11, 2012, 21:10 PM IST

New Delhi: Air India pilots and cabin crew will now have to put in more flying hours as Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh has directed the national carrier to go by the rule book.

The direction came after a comparative analysis of the flight duty time limitations (FDTL) followed by Air India. FDTL governs the flight duty hours of pilots and cabin crew.

The analysis found that barring one of the six FDTL parameters regarding 'Rest Period', all others followed by the carrier for its pilots and crew members were on the lower side compared to what was laid down by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), an official statement said.

The other parameters include number of landings, maximum daily flight duty period, maximum daily flight time, weekly, monthly or annual limitation of flying hours, SOD (Staff on Duty) travel or positioning for duty.

According to the analysis, the pilots were found operating flights for 6.5 hours on domestic and seven hours on international sectors, against the DGCA guidelines of nine and 10 hours respectively.

The duty hours were on lower side because the pilots and cabin crew unions had inked agreements with the airline management several years ago. The minister's direction would imply negation of these agreements.

"Due to the above constraints the average utilisation of pilots in Air India was limited. Following the DGCA guidelines on FDTL would lead to optimum utilisation of its pilots and crew members.

"It would also reduce the requirement of pilots and cabin crew for a given number of aircraft and spare significant number of pilots and cabin crew members for additional aircraft which Air India is going to acquire up to 2015," the statement said.

The Justice Dharmadhikari Committee Report on Air India's HR issues had also recommended that the pilots should abide by their licensing conditions and aviation rules.

The Indian Commercial Pilots' Association (ICPA), the union of erstwhile Indian Airlines pilots, said that line pilot's FDTL was mutually agreed set of rules incorporated in Air India's operation manual and "does not restrict a pilot from flying".

In a letter to the minister, ICPA's central president Captain Pankaj Garg said a pilot is available for 287 days after 30 days privilege leave and 48 weekly offs.

He said CAR series allows a pilot to fly 1,000 hours in 365 days whereas ICPA FDTL allows a pilot to fly 960 hours in same number of days.

"If a pilot is available for 240 days, per day flying to meet the max limit of CAR of 4.16 hours. Now, if the company wants to utilise this pilot for eight hours per day his or her limit would exhaust in 120 man days. The company would then require another pilot for the next 120 days," the letter said.

So, the total requirement of pilots would be reduce if AI starts following CAR.

"This would in fact create another problem where some pilots by the year-end would have no hours left to fly and would be on leave by force without applying for leave. We can fly 6.5 hours per day under ICPA FDTL which is 1.5 times higher then requirement (4.16). We have given dispensation on metro sector (seven hours per day) since 2006; company has not made any use of this," Garg said in his letter.

CAR allows total duty of 190 hours in 30 days. Using ICPA FDTL this limit can be exhausted in 20-22 days. Similar interpretation can be drawn for other provisions.

Like, as per CAR, a pilot can fly 125 hours in 30 days. At this rate, he would exhaust his annual limit (1,000 hours) in just 8 months. While following ICPA FDTL, the same is spread over the whole year, the letter said.

"Moreover, as per requirement of CAR series itself, all operators are required to formulate their own scheme of FDTL with in the provision of CAR and get approval from regulatory authority DGCA," Garg said.

The ICPA has sought a permission to hold a meeting to him and explain the same and it's benefits.