HC seeks Centre, DGCA response on stretched duty hours of pilots

New Delhi, Dec 7 The Delhi High Court on Wednesday issued notice to the Centre and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on a plea alleging deliberate variations in the Flight Duty Time Limitations (FDTL) of pilots resulting in fatigue.

The court asked the central government and the DGCA to file their response and posted the matter for further hearing on March 20, 2018.

“This is very dangerous. These are matters where you (Centre and DGCA) need to take steps,” the bench said.

The court asked the aviation regulator to place before it the flight timings and duty timings of pilots. It asked the DGCA whether there was any law which allowed pilots to fly more than eight hours.

The plea filed by Kerala resident Yeshwanth Shenoy alleged that the DGCA’s norm on the FDTL was violative of rules, as it allowed air operators to stretch the duty hours of pilots resulting into fatigue to them.

The prescribed norm for pilots was maximum eight hours flight time and six landings per day, but it was being flouted under the regulator’s watch, Shenoy told the court.

Many airline-related accident had occurred due to “pilot fatigue”, the plea said, adding: “One of the contributing factors to the Mangalore Air Crash (of May 2010 that killed 152 people) was pilot fatigue.”

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

The petition sought direction to the DGCA to reframe the Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR) on FDTL for flight crew by involving the stakeholders and taking into consideration international best practices.