New Delhi: Three senior pilots of Jet Airways (India) Ltd who examine young student pilots have themselves flunked tests conducted by aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), which is seeking to assess the competence of senior trainers and examiners at the country’s airlines.
The checks follow DGCA’s March crackdown on young pilots, some of whom had used fraudulent mark sheets to obtain licences; around a dozen pilots were arrested during the drive.
Jet Airways’ examiner Manoj Manha, 52, and M. Shain, 52, both experts on Airbus A330 aircraft, were found to have “inadequate subject knowledge” during the checks conducted by DGCA in June. Jet subsidiary JetLite’s Anupam Khanna, 43, a check pilot on Boeing 737 aircraft, was hauled up by the regulator for a “casual” approach during the checks, lacking in “cockpit discipline”, according to a government official familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified.
Jet’s spokesperson said in an email that the airline would be sending Manha and Shain for “corrective training”, after which they will resume their duties.
“The only unsatisfactory evaluation was for one specific item in the pre-sessions briefing. In fact, as per the recommendations of the DGCA evaluator, both these senior instructors continue with the airline as line trainers,” the airline said. “They will be undergoing corrective training internally and, thereafter, re-evaluation with DGCA and on successful completion will be cleared for simulator duties as examiners.”
The spokesperson did not comment on Khanna.
An aviation expert welcomed the checks, but said it raised uncomfortable questions. “It puts a question mark on all those who were trained by them (the two examiners) and all those who went through a proficiency check (conducted) by them,” said Mohan Ranganathan, a Chennai-based air safety expert and a member of the government-appointed Civil Aviation Safety Advisory Council (Casac).
All three pilots have been barred from conducting any checks on other pilots for the moment, the government official said, and added that DGCA would continue to test more pilots at other airlines.
Jet’s spokesperson said the results of DGCA’s checks are no reflection of its procedure for testing pilots. The airline uses “advanced psychometric evaluation methodology and medical checks, followed by simulator tests and a comprehensive interview process, before subjecting its pilots to any ab initio evaluation” and only 3% of the 4,000 commercial pilot licence holders that apply to the airline make the flying grade, according to the spokesperson.
Casac’s Ranganathan said that in any international airline even the slightest deviation would have led to the the examiner/instructor pilot being stripped of his position.
Clearance to become an examiner, instructor or a check pilot is granted by DGCA.
“If a trainer is found wanting he should not be allowed to continue because his initial assessment has been based on higher standards and he is expected to maintain those high standards,” Ranganathan said.
Jet Group, the country’s largest airline by passengers carried, has 1,400 pilots. India has about 5,000 unemployed commercial pilot licence holders, according to DGCA estimates.
DGCA’s rules or the civil aviation requirements available on its website clearly state that “pilots recommended for approval as examiners/instructors/check pilots...should not have failed in any of the proficiency checks on simulator/aircraft during the preceding two years.”