HC relief for ‘fatigued pilots’

Plea claims that the DGCA was allowing airline operators to stretch the duty hours of pilots, resulting in fatigue.File photo  

In a move that is likely to ensure the pilots and cabin crew members get the mandated rest period, the Delhi High Court on Wednesday directed Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to prescribe a specific flight and duty time limitation (FDTL), which is without any variation.

A Bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C. Hari Shankar asked the DGCA to strictly implement the provisions under the Aviation Act and Rules with regard to maximum and minimum of flying time.

Stretch duty hours

The court’s direction came on a petition by Kerala-based lawyer Yashwanth Shenoy who claimed that the DGCA was allowing airline operators to stretch the duty hours of pilots under the FDTL resulting in fatigue. “This will reduce the burden on pilots who are stretched of their physical limits just because DGCA wants to protect the coffers of private airlines. In all this, the passenger is the winner. He is assured of better safety,” Mr Shenoy told The Hindu following the HC decision.

In his petition, Mr. Shenoy had alleged that the prescribed norm for pilots was a maximum eight-hours light time and six landings per day, but it was being violated under the watch of the regulator.

He said that India had in July 2007 prepared a draft FDTL, but it never saw the light of the day as the airline operators opposed it on grounds of commercial loss. He said a watered-down version was notified and implemented in 2012-14.

Mr. Shenoy said many airline-related accident had occurred due to ‘pilot fatigue’. “One of the contributing factors to the Mangalore air crash [of May 2010 that killed 152 people] was pilot fatigue,” he had said. The petition sought to stay all the variations and exceptions approved by the DGCA. He alleged that these “variations were allowed to air operators without any scientific study or risk assessment in violation of their own regulations”.

Earlier, the HC had expressed concern over fatigued pilots and cabin crew posing a risk to passenger safety.