Elections have proved to be periods of peak demand for India’s helicopter operators, but strict enforcement of rules by regulators is making life hard for operators serving candidates who are running for election this year. Concerned about the potential for unsafe operations with rotorcraft being used to fly candidates in and out of neighborhoods while campaigning, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has for the first time met with more than 45 stakeholders–including helicopter operators, pilots and manufacturers–to discuss adherence to safety guidelines during the elections being held in five Indian states.
“A DGCA analysis of earlier accidents and incidents associated with small aircraft and helicopter operations from improvised airstrips and helipads revealed that instructions were violated time and again and safety was jeopardized,” the agency’s director general, EK Bharat Bhushan, said in an air safety circular issued on January 13. However, the DGCA initiative has given operators little time to plan for the election. For example, stricter enforcement of a directive requiring preflight medical checkups on pilots every day now has operators scrambling. During the three-month election period helicopters are expected to land at 500 temporary helipads.