Pilots may have to work longer hours

DGCA amends rules on flight duty

Pilots and flight attendants will now have to work longer hours after the aviation regulatory body DGCA amended its rules to allow airlines to extend duty timings of the crew during a medical emergency, a natural calamity, technical malfunction and unfavourable weather conditions.

Mandatory timings

The Directorate-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has laid down flight duty time limitation (FDTL) and rest timings for pilots and flight attendants, which have to be followed mandatorily by all airlines to prevent fatigue-related safety issues.

While the rules allowed airlines exemptions under exceptional circumstances, they did not define what those situations would be.

The DGCA has now spelt out the circumstances during which airlines will be allowed to extend shift timings of their crew to “avoid inconvenience to passengers.”

“Some of the exceptional circumstances, which may be occasionally encountered during operation of flight are medical emergency, natural calamity, national requirement for relief & rescue operations (mission oriented), equipment malfunction, weather related disruptions, runway closure, passenger and aircraft recovery, etc,” reads a circular from the DGCA dated June 23.

The annexure to the circular also includes “ATC delays" as a valid ground for airlines to extend timings of their crew.

On April 18 the Delhi High Court had barred the DGCA from granting airlines any exemption from FDTL after a plea by petitioner Yeshwant Shenoy. However, the DGCA sought a review which was upheld by the court which said that the DGCA is empowered to exempt airlines from FDTL rules "by special order or general order".

Mr Shenoy now says that he will file a contempt petition against the DGCA as the body is meddling with technicalities.

“The regulator has included every possible kind of delay in this latest circular instead of holding airlines accountable, which is wrong. If there is an act of God, an evacuation to be done, a war situation all those are valid grounds but if there is a snag in the aircraft and the airline has not been able to repair why should it be excused,” asked Captain Shakti Lumba who is an independent aviation specialist who also served with Alliance Air as its Executive Director.

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