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Pilots’ deaths: Can’t defer new rostering, DGCA tells airlines

Published:

NEW DELHI: The Directorate General of Civil Aviation has declined to give

airlines

more time to implement the revised

pilot duty hour norms

— which are aimed at improving

safety

by ensuring a fatigued and overworked pilot is not operating your flight. While airlines have said implementing the new flight duty time limitation (FDTL) norms that increase their pilot requirement from the mandated June 1, 2024, deadline will mean cutting flights, the Vikram Dev Dutt-headed regulatory body has reiterated that

flight safety

is paramount.

“The unfortunate instances of

pilot deaths

in the recent past ostensibly due to punishing roster schedules and consequent cumulative attendant impact on

flight crew

health and wellbeing is an urgent wake up call to address these issues without further delay…

revised FDTL scheme

has alleviation of flight crew fatigue as a core philosophy to achieve the intended objective of enhanced flight safety,” the

DGCA

has told the Federation of Indian Airlines (FIA) in response to the latter’s request seeking extension of the deadline for implementing the revised norms.
“Our paramount objective is to ensure the safety of the skies… all airlines (should) harmonise their operating policies in tune with this overarching objective… all airlines (should) take all necessary steps towards rollout of the revised FDTL (rules) from June 1, 2024. Revised FDTL schemes congruent with the revised FDTL ay kindly be submitted to DGCA for approval no later than April 15, 2024,” the DGCA has said in response to request filed by the Federation of Indian Airlines (FIA) seeking extension of the deadline for implementing the revised norms.
FIA, an umbrella body of Indian carriers, had on Feb 22, 2024, and then on March 6 sought an extension of the June 1 deadline. “We need more pilots to implement the revised norms for our existing flight schedule. If not given an extension, we will need to cut flights in the short to medium term,” senior officials of many airlines say.

Pilots of airlines that are not cash-strapped and are expanding — rapidly adding planes and flights — have been complaining of a strenuous rostering that leaves them stressed and fatigued. They have raised this serious safety issue on multiple occasions. Unfortunately there have also been a few cases of pilots collapsing and passing away in the past few months.
“The revised FDTL (rule) which is to be implemented with effect from June 1, 2024, is, needless to say, not only drawn from best industry practices worldwide in a prescriptive framework but has also gone a step further to align regulatory frameworks to the specific needs and nature of the operational environment in India… The (revised) provisions may appear either restrictive or liberal, depending on its direct impact on the viewing entity and differing perceptions may be formed when viewed from the eyes of either the airline operators or the pilots. While perceptions may vary, DGCA is primarily concerned in ensuring safe operations and practices that are best suited to the unique operating environment prevailing in India. A generalised and selective comparison of regulations applicable to different jurisdictions may not be useful to draw meaningful inferences in view of the significant differences in operating environments,” the DGCA has said.
The regulator has told airlines that their concern about “inadequate industry consultation on the issue” are misplaced. “The timeframe for implementation of the revised (rule) was arrived at after taking into account the lead time involved for operators to put in place the necessary change management steps including, but not limited to, crew recruitment and crew training and other attendant logistical arrangements.

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