DGCA must inject accountability into sector
Air Safety is increasingly being imperiled by the recklessness of pilots or crew, or even ground staff. In August, a Jet Airways flight went off the runway at Riyadh airport. The licences of the pilots were suspended. In September, over 30 passengers experienced bleeding after the pilots ‘forgot’ to turn on a switch to regulate cabin pressure. The crew was taken off duty pending investigation. Jet Airways fired its pilots for a cockpit fight in January, and in March, two pilots were asked to quit after they turned up stoned to operate flights. In July, mid-air collision between two IndiGo aircraft was averted, while in April, a window panel came off an Air India (AI) aircraft during turbulence. The latest is a Dubai-bound AI plane hitting a perimeter wall during takeoff! The pilots have been derostered, for now.
Without exception, airlines are grappling with a range of issues: delayed salaries (early last month, Jet Airways pilots warned of ‘non-cooperation’), poor returns, overworked pilots or their shortage. A section of AI pilots had threatened to strike work over unpaid dues. The Delhi High Court has sought from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) the latest position regarding air safety, recruitment of inspectors and investigation into accidents. The sector is under the weather and needs a potent antidote. The DGCA should incorporate wellness capsules into the high-stress schedule of employees, particularly pilots. Every plane needs a provision for feedback, which must be taken seriously by way of detailed action.
All airlines have made it clear that they won’t brook unruly behaviour, so much so that the Civil Aviation Ministry has issued guidelines on the no-fly list, under which air travellers can be banned for a three-month period or even a lifetime. Fair enough, but it can’t be a one-way street. While a pilot should not be hauled over the coals for circumstances beyond his control — a technical failure, for instance — human lapses, endangering lives, must not go unpunished. A pilot’s negligence can be as grave as a hospital’s. Passenger safety is non-negotiable.