Voicing its concern over the 26-year-old fleet of Airbus A320s in the national carrier Air India, one of its pilots’ union has sought grounding of these planes from aviation regulator DGCA.
The Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA), which represents erstwhile Indian Airlines pilots in the now combined entity Air India, has said the airline continues to fly these A320s even after snags being reported regularly.
“The classic A-320 aircrafts which are 26 years old (one of the oldest in the world) are being operated with repetitive snags endangering flight safety… DGCA should not permit AI to operate these lethal snag-prone classic aircrafts in lieu of passenger safety,” ICPA stated in a letter to the DGCA last Thursday.
ICPA letter comes in the backdrop of a 24-year old Airbus A230 plane, operated by Lufthansa’s budget arm Germanwings, crashing into a mountainside in the French Alps last week, killing all 150 people on board.
The pilots’ body, in the letter, has also raised other issues including the show-cause notice by regulator for reporting late for duty among others and has even “questioned” the regulator as to how could it ignore the plight of Air India employees in the face of salary delays.
DGCA had recently issued show-cause notices to a number of pilots for reporting late for duty with one of them being served the notice for arriving one minute late.
“We wonder, how have you ignored the stressful working conditions and plight of our pilots, cabin crew, engineers and all other employees due to nonpayment of full salary and allowances for last almost 32 months, when you were very prompt in this aspect in regard of Kingfisher and SpiceJet employees. How is it that not receiving salary is a matter of flight safety for Kingfisher and Spice-jet employees but not for Air Indians?
“We request you to kindly also look into the working conditions of pilots and cabin crew in respect of Air India,” the letter said.
Urging the regulator to ensure the availability of the pilots after calculating their all leave entitlements, the ICPA said, “We request you to ensure that availability of flight crew is calculated after taking into account entitled leaves, weekly off’s, mandatory training days etc and not just by considering them to be available 365 days a year.
The ICPA has also asked the DGCA to clarify about the minimum time before scheduled departure that a pilot must report for flying at airports.
“Our concern is that the above mentioned notice threatens about action to be taken in case of unsatisfactory or no reason given in reply to the show cause notices… We request you to kindly let us know where and what is documented in the rules as to getting late for a flight (inadvertently) is an offence and what is the penalty for it.
“There is an impression that DGCA is operator friendly and is willing to look the other way when short-coming of the operator is pointed out but unforgiving when employees are found even slightly wanting,” the ICPA in the letter said.