'Shut flying schools fudging records to give pilots licences'

New Delhi: With three DGCA teams auditing at least 40 flying schools across the country, the government on Monday warned that those institutes found fudging records to grant pilots' licences could be closed down immediately.

"Such fake institutions must be closed at the earliest. We cannot encourage such institutions," Civil Aviation Minister Vayalar Ravi told reporters here.

He, however, allayed apprehensions that a large number of fake pilots were flying planes in the country, saying there was no cause for panic as very few such cases have been detected so far following the scrutiny of the documents of hundreds of pilots.

After going through the documents of over 4,000 licences, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has lodged 13 First Information Reports with the Delhi Police's Crime Branch. While six of them relate to Airline Transport Pilots Licenses (ATPLs), seven FIRs concern records of Commercial Pilot Licences (CPLs).

There are about 4,000 ATPLs, while about 10,000 CPLs have been issued till date.

"The DGCA has been given full freedom to act on the subject. Three committees have been formed which are going into the cases simultaneously. All institutions (flying schools) are being audited," Ravi said after a meeting with German Transport Minister Peter Ramsauer here.

"If anything fake is found - if the log books record 200-250 hours falsely, then definitely, we will take action", Ravi said.

During their audit drive, the DGCA teams, which include outside experts too, would verify the logged flying hours with the log books of air traffic controllers, where the flying had taken place in controlled environment.

They would also compare the consumption of aviation fuel by the flying schools and their fuel bills to see if they match the flying hours clocked by their students.

Asked about the high fuel costs, the Minister said he had recently met Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on the issue, but blamed the state governments for imposing high rates of sales tax on aviation turbine fuel which increases the fuel bill of the airlines.

In this context, he said Kerala alone earned about Rs 3,600 crore annually through sales tax on ATF.