Indian helicopter operators have asked the country’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to revoke a new requirement making pilots personally responsible for conducting security checks on passengers. Ahead of India’s long election campaign, which ends this month and involves extensive use of chartered helicopters by politicians, the DGCA sent out a directive that obliges pilots to personally search passengers for guns and other illegal items. They are also required to enforce restrictions on charter customers bringing additional passengers on flights at the last minute, a common expectation for election campaign flights.
The Rotary Wing Society of India (RWSI) lodged a complaint with the DGCA after a helicopter pilot and one of the operator’s mechanics were allegedly beaten up by aides working for an unidentified politician after refusing a request to change the destination for a flight at a time when it was too late to get the required official clearance from the Election Commission. “VIPs are not used to being refused or frisked for carrying weapons and cash by pilots, a procedure generally done by security agencies. This was one of the things that caused friction in the recent beating-up incident,” RWSI president K. Sridharan told AIN.
India’s complex and inflexible bureaucracy makes it difficult to alter passenger manifests at the last minute, but operators have found that charter customers resent being told they cannot bring additional passengers with them. “Election flying is a highly demanding exercise…long flying hours, many takeoffs and landings, weather changes, lack of proper rest and recuperation arrangements, hurriedly prepared helipads, frequent changes in itinerary, time management, tense security arrangements, crowd control, congested airspace, lack of adequate communication and airspace management,” the DGCA acknowledged in its official advisory covering arrangements for charter flights during the election.
The RWSI is demanding that DGCA officials themselves enforce regulations at airports, rather than expecting operators to shoulder this burden.