DGCA cracks the whip on Jet for training flaws

Taking a serious view of deficiencies in training of cockpit crew of Jet Airways, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has de-rostered four pilots and issued show-cause notices to an additional 131 pilots flying with the airline.

A senior official in DGCA said, “We have taken off roster four pilots as they were found to be deficient in training. We have also issued show-cause notices to 131 pilots for flying after the expiry of the validity of their last pilot proficiency check (PPC).” The PPC is mandatory and is required to be taken every six months. The PPC test checks the overall knowledge level and proficiency of a pilot.

The regulator’s notice to the pilots asks why their licences should not be suspended or cancelled. However, the regulator is yet to decide whether to de-roster or suspend the 131 pilots. In the past the DGCA has de-rostered pilots for such violations, but the regulator seems to have taken a cautious stand now because taking so many pilots off duty at one go would lead to disruption of schedules.

The regulator has directed the airline to remove its chief of training and issued a show-cause to the chief of operations why action should not be taken against him for permitting pilots to fly aircraft without undergoing corrective training.

The audit also discovered that Jet Airways did not have full approval for its type rating training facility in Mumbai. Pilots need to be trained on a particular aircraft type before they can actually fly the plane. Sources said Jet Airways’ facility in Mumbai did not have full approval from the DGCA. The airline received full approval earlier this year, but was now shifting the facility to Bangalore, a source said.

The audit was ordered by Director General Prabhat Kumar.

A pilot needs to undergo medical tests (annual), simulator checks (twice a year) and a route check (flying under supervision of a senior captain), once a year in order to keep his licence valid. In the absence of these, pilots can not operate flights.

While the DGCA rules say the proficiency check is valid for six months, the regulator had till last year allowed a two-month grace period to pilots. So instead of carrying out the check every six months, pilots could do it within eight months. DGCA sources said this norm was being misused by airlines and two checks were being carried out in 16 months instead of 12 months as prescribed in the rules.

These violations were detected by DGCA officials two years ago and subsequently new regulations were issued last year and the two-month grace period was done away with.

The new regulations regarding flight crew training came into effect last September. The DGCA audit carried out last month found that the six-month limit was not being followed even now. “There were delays of one-two months in conducting the checks. As of now, there are no pilots whose proficiency checks are pending,” a source said. “Jet Airways has not seen the report from the DGCA nor has the airline been advised on when it will be received. We therefore cannot comment on the findings in the report or speculation in the media. However, we are confident that our training meets all DGCA and international standards and that we will be able to resolve any discrepancies or address any observations however minor once we have the report and can discuss the findings with the DGCA,” a Jet Airways spokesperson said. “At Jet Airways safety of our passengers and our crew remains our paramount priority and we will work closely with the DGCA to swiftly resolve any issues that may be highlighted by the authorities,” he added.

The action taken by the regulator follows an audit of Jet Airways’ pilot training programme between August 20 and August 22 this year. The DGCA had decided to audit Jet Airways’ pilot training program following an incident on August 8, 2014, in which the airline’s Mumbai-Brussels flight had suddenly dropped 5,000 feet in Turkish airspace. The captain was sleeping as per rules. The co-pilot who was busy on her iPad and noticed that the Boeing 777 had veered off its assigned level of 34,000 feet only when warned by the air traffic control in Turkey.