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DGCA panel looking into norms for checking pilots’ health

New Delhi: Aviation regulator DGCA has set a committee to look into the norms for checking pilots’ health in the wake of the recent Germanwings plane crash.

“There is a committee which is looking into it (the norms for assessing pilots health),” Director General of Civil Aviation M Sathiyavathy told reporters.

Representational image: ReutersRepresentational image: Reuters

Representational image: Reuters

She, however, refused to elaborate more on the issue.

“I cannot comment further,” Sathiyavathy said.

The move by Directorate General of Civil Aviation comes in the wake of the recent Germanwings airline plane crash in the Alps in which it is alleged that a mentally disturbed co-pilot crashed the plane killing all 150 people onboard.

The 27-year-old co-pilot Andreas Lubitz of Germanwings was reportedly battling against severe mental health issues and even had treatment for suicidal tendencies before obtaining his pilot’s licence.

As of now, nine domestic airlines, which employ over 3,000 pilots, carry out such tests on their pilots at the point of induction but there are no subsequent appraisals of their mental state. They, however, undergo physical fitness tests every six months.

Sathiyavathy also said that the DGCA is also recertifying all flying schools and non-scheduled operators, following the restoration of India’s aviation safety rating back to the top category by the US aviation watchdog Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) early this month.

The FAA had downgraded India from Category I to Category II last January.

“For re-certification, we took up Air India and Jet Airways on a priority basis as they fly to the United States. Then we took up Vistara, Air Pegasus and Air Costa (the two regional carriers operating out of the southern region). Other scheduled airlines are being taken up now,” she said.

The re-certifcation implies that the aviation regulator is satisfied that the airlines meet all the prescribed safety and security norms.

She was speaking on the sidelines of a function jointly organised by the Ministry of Civil Aviation and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce in New Delhi.

The function was organised to announce the dates for the 5th edition of the India Aviation international conference-exhibition in Hyderabad from March 16 next year.

Responding to a question on financial audit of domestic airlines, Sathiyvathi termed the exercise as a “regular” process.

Last year also, DGCA had conducted a similar exercise.

She defended the recent notices issued to some of the Jet Airways pilots for allegedly flying without clearing the mandatory pilots’ proficiency check or PPC, though the airline had rebutted these allegations.

“As far as (Jet Airways) pilots are concerned, there were two aspects based on which we had issued show cause notices to some of them and not only Jet Airways,” Sathiyavathy said.

“One was that people were not having pilot proficiency certificates and the other was that they were not undergoing breath analyser tests…. These are minor aberrations,” she said.

The DGCA head also denied that national carrier Air India was given any dispensation as far as operating flights with less than required number of cabin crew was concerned.

“No special dispensation has been given to Air India with regard to number of crew,” she said.

Responding to a question on the air fares, which sky-rocket during the peak seasons but hit rock bottom in the low demand season, she said that the regulator’s job was just to ensure that the airlines adhere to the published fares only.

“We are monitoring the tariff and ensure that they (airlines) charge as per the published rates….I can only ensure that it is within the band that they publish. Beyond that it is a free thing,” Sathiyavathi said.