Friday, June 1, 2012

BREAKING! Air India to recruit foreign captains, says minister

Neelam Mathews
June 1, 2012

Even as Air India's pilots strike crosses the 25 day mark with the government unable to solve the crisis, Ajit Singh, minister of civil aviation told Aerospace Diary Air India would look at foreign commanders to fly its wide bodies.Air India has 20 777s of which 5 are to be leased.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has allowed expatriate pilots to operate Indian aircraft only till 2013.

Of the striking pilots, around 70 are commanders. How this mammoth task will be achieved at the cost of very dear foreign exchange, is left to be seen. Also Aerospace Diary learns the security clearance for foreign pilots is being reduced from 4 months to 2 weeks to accommodate the foreigners. “Will this not cause possible problems?” queries an official. There is also a concern regarding safety given that the time span to check the antecedents of the foreign pilots is short.The shadow of the recent Mangalore crash remains a shroud over us.

The Air India management is preparing a business plan to be announced next week, the minister said. Replying to Aerospace Diary’s query whether 787s would be included, Singh said “ofcourse.” We at Aerospace Diary can only comprehend from that statement, that the controversial compensation-driven and stalled 787s are on their way!!

Singh was meeting the press to announce a roadmap for implementation of the Justice D M Dharmadhikari Committee recommendations on HR integration of the two airlines with parity in pay scales. On whether this itself could lead to another strike, Singh did not respond.

Interestingly, it costs Air India Rs 30 lakhs and 2 months to train a 777 pilot on the 787 and one crore and six months to train an Airbus pilot on the 787. The math is mind boggling. 16 erstwhile Indian Airlines have started training on the 787, while 32 Air India pilots have completed their training.

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