New Delhi: The Federation of Indian Airlines (FIA), a body of all major Indian airlines, today moved the Delhi High Court seeking modification of its direction to aviation regulator DGCA not to permit changes in the stipulated flight and duty time limitations (FDTL) of pilots, including the number of landings and take-offs.
The FIA, which represents private carriers Jet Airways, IndiGo, SpiceJet and GoAir and state-run Air India, mentioned its plea before a bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar, saying the variations in FDTL were sometimes necessary, as in the latest instance of diversion of around 70 flights from Delhi to other airports due to the dust-storm yesterday.
Following the high court’s April 18 direction to the DGCA, the FIA said the regulator had set aside all variations it had permitted earlier in the number of landings and take-offs a pilot could conduct in a day.
There were delays caused by diversions and rise in the number of landings and take-offs as standby pilots are not available at airports where the airplanes were diverted.
Air India, in its plea, referred to an incident of May 9 when its Delhi-Chicago flight was diverted to Milwaukee (US) due to bad weather in Chicago. The flight could not take off for seven hours as, due to withdrawal of the variations, only one landing was permitted for the crew that day.
It said the flight duration from Milwaukee to Chicago was 19 minutes for which the passengers had to wait seven hours till standby crew could be brought in.
The bench, however, said,”Life is more important than airlines’ profit. Let 140 flights be diverted. It is high time the country is sensitive to this. We have to ensure lives are not endangered.” The court asked the airlines to file their applications, saying these would be listed in due course.
The FIA, represented by senior advocate Rajiv Nayar, sought a hearing from the court saying they had been affected by the April 18 order, which was passed without hearing them. A similar but separate plea has been moved by Air India also.
Both FIA and AI in their applications have said that pursuant to the April 18 order, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) issued a letter on May 2 withdrawing all variations it had approved earlier and also directed the airlines to file a revised FDTL scheme in accordance with the Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR) of 2011.
The applications have been moved in the main petition filed by Kerala-based lawyer Yashwanth Shenoy raising the issue of pilot and air crew fatigue and how it can be dangerous to safety of a flight and its passengers. The court while issuing the April 18 order had disposed of the petition.
The bench had passed the order ruling that the DGCA had no authority under the Aviation Act and Rules to permit the variations or deviation. The court had also asked the DGCA to amend the existing civil aviation requirements in accordance with the rules within a period of one year.
The airlines in their applications have said that DGCA in a “knee-jerk reaction” had issued the May 2 letter.