DGCA to axe airlines' exemptions

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3 Nov 2010
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The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has decided to end all dispensations given to airlines which mostly include exemption on the maximum time pilots and cabin crew can fly on long flights. According to a report by Saurabh Sinha in The Times of India, while this facility has helped carriers save a lot of money earlier, it came at the cost of passenger safety. The aviation regulator's chief Bharat Bhushan decided to end this practice after an Indian carrier approached the DGCA to be allowed to operate aircraft on the India-London route with only a commander and a co-pilot instead of two sets.

"Under Flight Duty Time Limitation (FDTL) norms, a flight of almost nine to 10 hours has to be operated with two sets of pilots, i.e., two commanders and two co-pilots," sources said. Instead of acceding to the airline's request, Bhushan decided to review all such dispensations given to airlines, as they potentially affect flight safety. “The idea of FDTL norms, which are set to be revised this month, is to have pilots and crew operate for only as long as they can without fatigue and to respond adequately to an emergency situation,” Bhushan said.

“We are going to come out with new FDTL norms very soon, and all the dispensations given till now will become invalid. Dispensations will be given in emergency situations. For example, if a flight is not able to land at its destination and is diverted to some other airport, then the same set of pilots and crew can be allowed to fly the plane to the original destination if a replacement is not available at the diversion airport. But this can't be a norm," added Bhushan. The DCGA has sought a list of dispensations such as the one indicated by Bhushan given to airlines over the years.

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