NEW DELHI : Indian aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Tuesday issued notices to Wadia Group-controlled GoAir for overworking more than 150 pilots, violating a mandatory flight duty time limitation (FDTL), a senior government official said.

DGCA regulations set such limitations in order to prevent fatigue among pilots and flight attendants as it can potentially cause safety issues in the air.

The notice covers about a quarter of GoAir’s pilots. It is, however, unlikely to disrupt the airline’s operations as the regulator’s action is not punitive but meant as a warning to comply with mandatory rest periods, the official said. This means that pilots who violated the FDTL norms will not be grounded by the regulator.

The airline was warned because the crew worked for “more consecutive night periods than mandated", said the official mentioned above, adding that there were other violations as well.

“More severe action will follow (if the airlines and pilots fail to comply with the regulations in future)," the official said.

GoAir said it has received the aviation regulator’s notice following a routine FDTL audit by the regulator. “GoAir respects the observations made by the regulator and will take appropriate action to abide by the directives," the airline said.

The warning comes on the heels of a cautionary diktat by the aviation regulator last month to the Mumbai-headquartered airline that resulted in several flight cancellations for successive days. An aviation official had said then that the airline’s actions could have potentially caused accidents. GoAir had blamed its flight cancellations on inclement weather, protests in Delhi, and the non-availability of spare Pratt & Whitney engines for its A320neo (new engine option) planes. The carrier has a fleet of 57 aircraft, including 42 Airbus A320neo and 15 A320ceo (current engine option) aircraft. It also has around 600 pilots on its rolls.

The cancellation of the flights by GoAir in December because of crew shortage comes amid heightened safety concerns because of snags on the Pratt & Whitney-powered A320neo aircraft.

On Tuesday, an Airbus A320neo aircraft powered by Pratt & Whitney engines operated by GoAir, which was travelling from Delhi to Varanasi, was forced to turn back because of a technical glitch, the airline said. “The aircraft is being inspected and rectified by GoAir engineering team," said the airline, which operates more than 200 flights everyday to domestic and international destinations.

Meanwhile, the DGCA has intensified safety checks following a spate of incidents involving airlines in India, though these have been classified as preventive steps. At present, the number of A320neo aircraft engines with potential safety problems has risen to more than 130 in India. IndiGo and GoAir are the only airlines that operate A320neo planes using Pratt & Whitney engines.

According to a recent Capa India report, GoAir is on track to become the first airline in India to operate an all-neo fleet (powered by Pratt & Whitney engines) before IndiGo.

“The carrier is expected to induct 5-6 aircraft in the second half of FY2020. Its fleet was earlier expected to reach 64-66 aircraft by the end of FY2020, but is now likely to close the year at 60 aircraft," the report added.

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