Saturday, March 29, 2014

India: Commercial pilot license now valid for 5 years

NEW DELHI: India's civil aviation regulator has decided to increase the validity of pilot licenses to five years, according to an official, partly meeting domestic airlines' demand regarding license renewal.

Domestic airlines had been pressing the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to align regulations for renewal of commercial pilot licenses with those in the US and the UK, where permits are given out for perpetuity, a senior DGCA official, who did not wish to be named, said.

In India, permits given to commercial pilots are renewed every two years. Airlines say the process is time consuming and inefficient.

"Making licences permanent is a particularly tricky issue," the DGCA official told ET. "It requires some more study before a decision is made on making pilot licences in India perpetual. Right now, we have decided to renew the licences of pilots every five years, instead of the current two years. We want to be business friendly, but safety cannot be ignored."

The decision was taken at meeting between DGCA officials and executives of private airlines on Friday. The airlines were represented by executives from the operations division as the top bosses had stayed away.

The airlines have also sought relaxation in medical tests that pilots have to undergo. At present, commercial pilot licence holders above the age of 40 have to undergo Class-1 medical test twice a year. These tests, conducted by the Air Force Medical Board, are mandated as per recommendations of the International Civil Aviation Organisation. But soon a dedicated team in the DGCA is expected to take over the task.

"We have started hiring Class-II medical examiners, so we are working towards setting up a dedicated medical examiners' team for commercial pilots," the DGCA official said, adding more than a relaxation, the move will increase the efficiency of medical checks.

The DGCA has also informed airlines about the progress on the issue of regaining a 'Category I' safety status from the US' Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The regulator is understood to have told airlines that the US FAA will be apprised of the DGCA's progress on March 31. "We will fulfill all the FAA requirements by anywhere between May to June," the DGCA official said. "We already have hired 35 flight operations inspectors as per the FAA requirements."

Meanwhile, low-cost carrier SpiceJet has apologized for the mid-air Holi celebrations, including a dance sequence by the cabin crew, aboard eight flights on March 17. The carrier was served a show-cause notice by the DGCA for the act.

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