New Delhi: Sticking to old times

Print edition : November 16, 2012

THE Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has failed to implement a new set of rules that regulates the number of flying hours and other duty limitations of pilots on domestic routes. Flight Duty Timing Limitation (FDTL) rules were to be operationalised in August 2011 in keeping with scientifically determined international best practices on the number of flying hours and the rest period for pilots.

Speaking to Frontline, a source in the aviation industry said: The DGCA is yet to implement the new regulations on flying hours because there is pressure from several airlines to delay it. If the operators enforce the norms regarding number of flying hours strictly, the manpower cost for running an airline will go up.

The FDTL rules mandate a maximum of nine hours of flying and up to three landings in 24 hours for day operations and nine hours of flying and two landings for night operations. They also impose cumulative flight time limitations. The maximum flight time limitations for seven consecutive days is 35 hours and for 30 consecutive days it is 125 hours.

The Society for the Welfare of Indian Pilots (SWIP), an organisation of about 1,000 pilots formed in 1998, had sent a legal notice to the DGCA in April for not implementing the FDTL norms on domestic routes.

The new FDTL rules were designed after the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) issued a directive to member countries in 2009 to come up with scientifically evaluated rules for the number of flying hours. At present, the DGCA requires airlines to follow FDTL rules of 1992 for domestic operations. A new set of rules was introduced in 2007 and then revoked. The DGCA now says there is some further clarification required from the Ministry of Civil Aviation for going ahead with the implementation of new rules, an industry source said.

The FDTL rules have been a bone of contention between airlines and pilots, with the Indian Commercial Pilots Association, a union of erstwhile Indian Airlines pilots, sending a legal notice to the Air India management alleging that the proposed new FDTL norms are in violation of an agreement signed in 1993. The new norms have increased the maximum number of flying hours for pilots from six and a half hours to nine hours and the number of landings to five from three in a span of a day.

Speaking to this reporter, Rohit Nandan, Chairman and Managing Director of Air India, said the company was abiding by the DGCA guidelines on FDTL. He refused to comment on the legal notice saying the matter was sub judice.

Sagnik Dutta
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