Air India has been granted special permission by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to allow for cross-utilization of pilots across its wide-body fleet. The move has been hailed by aviation experts as a game-changer, as it would allow Air India to optimize the use of its pilot pool, potentially saving the airline both time and money.
According to Air India’s Director of Operations Captain Arvind Kathpalia, the move would allow Air India to organize its operations more efficiently, streamline its training process, and improve operational safety. It would also allow the airline to better manage and distribute its human resources, particularly in the wake of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
The DGCA’s approval would allow Air India’s pilots with a “Wide Body Endorsement” to fly any of its wide-body aircraft, including the Boeing 777, 787, and the Airbus A320. It would also allow its Airbus A320 pilots to fly its narrow-body fleet of Boeing 737-800 and 737-MAX planes.
Currently, pilots are trained and certified to fly specific aircraft types, and require additional certification to fly different types of planes. This means that pilots must undergo separate training for each type of aircraft they are certified to fly, which can be time-consuming and expensive. The DGCA’s approval effectively shortens the training process, allowing Air India’s pilots to be certified across multiple aircraft types, which would save the airline both time and money.
The move would also allow Air India to better manage its pilot pool, which has been a longstanding issue for the airline. Air India has one of the highest ratios of pilots to aircraft in the world, with about 1,400 pilots for a fleet of around 140 aircraft. This has led to issues with roster management and pilot shortages, which have resulted in flight cancellations and delays.
The approval for cross-utilization of pilots is expected to significantly reduce the airline’s operational costs, as it would allow Air India to optimize its scheduling and rostering of pilots. It would also enable the airline to reduce the number of pilot training programs, as pilots would be certified to fly multiple aircraft types.
Air India has been struggling financially in recent years, and the Covid-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the situation. The airline has been hit hard by the downturn in the aviation industry, with revenue losses estimated to be around $1 billion. The move to cross-utilization of pilots is seen as a positive step in the airline’s efforts to reduce its costs and improve its financial performance.
The DGCA’s approval for cross-utilization of pilots is also expected to be beneficial for Air India’s pilots, as it would provide them with more opportunities to fly different types of aircraft. This would allow them to expand their skill sets and gain more experience, which could be beneficial for their career development.
However, the move has also raised concerns about safety, with some experts warning that cross-utilization of pilots could compromise safety standards. There are concerns that pilots who are certified to fly multiple aircraft types may not be as proficient in each type of plane as pilots who are certified to fly only one type of aircraft. There are also concerns about fatigue management, as pilots who fly multiple types of planes may be more susceptible to fatigue.
Air India has sought to address these concerns by ensuring that pilots receive adequate training and certification before they are allowed to fly different types of planes. The airline has also implemented strict fatigue management protocols, including limits on the number of hours that pilots can fly and mandatory rest periods between flights.
Overall, the approval for cross-utilization of pilots is seen as a positive development for Air India, as it would allow the airline to optimize its pilot pool and reduce its operational costs. However, it is important that the airline continues to prioritize safety and ensure that pilots receive adequate training and certification before they are allowed to fly different types of planes. By doing so, Air India can strike a balance between efficiency and safety, and position itself for long-term success in the highly competitive aviation industry.