India’s fast growing but unorganized general aviation segment has finally attracted the attention of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), which recently released a dictate to ensure that flight operation inspectors follow procedures for flight crew standards, training and licensing for fixed-wing aircraft.
“Earlier there weren’t many qualified examiners/check pilots in India, and often expat pilots flying into India were allowed to be examiners. This situation has changed with the [proliferation] of general aviation aircraft, which has brought in more pilots. There is now a need to appoint more pilots as examiners, and the DGCA is addressing this requirement,” said Business Aviation Operators Association (BAOA) secretary Group Capt. R.K. Bali.
DGCA-authorized pilots are assigned to perform instrument-rating checks on pilots and routine checks on general aviation airplanes. “This is also providing additional income to the DGCA. Two years ago, checks cost $9 per aircraft. They’re up to $900 now, pinching smaller operators,” said Amit Sinha, president of corporate affairs for Air Works India, the nation’s largest third-party maintenance provider.
The industry recognizes the need for more clearly defined monitoring procedures, said Sinha, and the DGCA circular implements standard operating procedures. Examiners seeking initial approval from the DGCA will need to complete 20 hours of classroom training on instructional techniques and at least two hours in the right and left seats of a simulator or aircraft. Check pilots, too, will be required to complete simulator or aircraft training in day and night conditions to cover normal, abnormal and emergency conditions (including simulated one-engine-inoperative landings) from the right seat.
Operators are concerned, however, that the understaffed DGCA does not have enough inspectors for routine and instrument checks. Two years ago there were two or three examiners. That number is 18 now but still inadequate. “We are seeing a rise in agreements between operators striking a quid pro quo for examiners. For example, operator A will tie up with operator B to provide each other with [designated] examiners. This could be potentially detrimental,” an agency official told AIN.
General aviation, which has been considered a stepbrother to more prestigious airline operations, might soon get its own department in the ministry of civil aviation to deal with issues related specifically to the segment. “We want to be treated separately. We fly for business; commercial carriers do it for connectivity. Our needs are different from those of commercial aviation. One day our pilots might fly for nine hours; the next day might be a day off or it could be an international trip… This brings its own share of niche requirements for training,” said Bali.