Air connectivity between Kabul and India could be severely affected if pilots from the national carrier Air India go ahead with their threat of not flying to the war-torn Afghan capital.
Air India is the only Indian-registered International Air Transport Association member (carrier) that operates a service from India (New Delhi) to Afghanistan (Kabul). And the seat occupancy in the six-time-a-week flights (mostly through A320 aircraft) “are generally good.”
But with NATO and Afghan forces scaling up anti-Taliban air/drone offensive through Operation Moshtarak, pilots have complained about safety, especially over the Kabul skies, and the lack of “clear and Kabul airport / environs specific guidelines” that have to be followed in case of emergencies such as a hijack or even during low visibility.
Pilots have also complained that despite it being mandatory they have not been provided with topographical maps of the Kabul region. Only navigational charts are given, which they say is not adequate given the topography of the region.
In a letter dated February 17 and addressed to the Executive Director (Operations) of the National Aviation Company of India Limited (Indian) – Air India’s holding company – the Indian Commercial Pilots’ Association (ICPA) has listed shortcomings in the New Delhi-Kabul operations that the ICPA has claimed impinges directly on the safety of flight operations and puts the lives of both the air crew and the passengers in “jeopardy.”
The ICPA has listed a number of areas that lack specially defined procedures/guidelines which have the approval of the Civil Aviation Authority of Afghanistan and the operator (Air India). These include procedures for Kabul in the event of single-engine operation, permission or otherwise for ‘Low Visibility Takeoff’ (depends on airport’s infrastructure), and ceiling requirement.