KARACHI, May 26: At least 25 pilots of the Shaheen Air International (SAI) have violated the flight time limitation rule by flying aircraft for more time than allowed legally, which was a serious air safety hazard, Dawn has learnt.
According to sources, the aviation regulator in the country — the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) — is taking this serious issue leniently and imposing low fine without taking any stern action against the pilots or the airline.
The sources said that the stern actions included grounding of the pilot or cancelling or suspending the airline’s licence to refrain them from compromising the air safety rules and putting lives of passengers and others on the ground at risk.
They said that the flight duty time limitation (FDTL) was the time a pilot could fly an aircraft at a stretch after which rest period becomes necessary and mandatory.
The limitation was fixed so that airlines did not force their pilots to work for longer period, which would cause fatigue and could prove to be detrimental for the flight and put the lives of passengers and people on the ground at risk, they added.
The time limitation was placed in order to give pilots full rest and keep them fresh during the flight.
The sources said that among the 25 pilots at least six of them were senior pilots and holding the posts of instructors / trainers and one of them handled / managed the entire airline’s flight operations besides instructing / training the junior pilots.
The sources said that a list of the law breakers prepared by the CAA showed that the culprits included a person heading the most important position in the flight operations in the SAI, its general manager of flight operations Irfan Saleem Hashmi, while other five senior law violators were pilot instructors / trainers: Alamgir Akhtar, Balban Sabir, Mohammad Aslam, Farooq Iqbal and Nizamuddin Jatoi.
The rest were 19 junior pilots — Adnan Sarwar, Naeem Maqbool, Haroon Rasheed Paul, Mohammed Ali, Javed Iqbal, Ikramuddin Khan, Ghazanfar Khadim, Farooq Khan, Zia Shahid, Mohammad Usman, Basir Saggu, Shadab Hanain, Ejaz Hanif, Ayub Sarwar, Nadeem Hanif, Mahmood Ahmed, Faisal Naseem Gul, Shuja Alam, and Nisar Raja — according to the list.
The sources said that the CAA issued a show-cause notice — HQCAA/1076/067/FSAC/9618 — to the SAI which said: “where as you, Shaheen Air International holder of an Air Operator Certificate (AOC) No.AOC-001/95-AL have been found in violation of Flight Duty Time Limitation (FDTL) for the months of October and November, 2012. The issue was raised by the CAA with SAI on Jan 10, 2013 and your reply vide letter No: SAI/010/Flt Ops dated Jan 28, 2013 was found to be unsatisfactory.
“Where as due to above acts / omissions the provisions of Rule 201 (2) and Rule 202 of Civil Aviation Rules, 1994 and Air Navigation Order No: 91.0012, Issue V dated April 7, 2011 have been violated and have provided sufficient grounds to the satisfaction of DG CAA for action in terms of CARs, 1994.
“Therefore, you Shaheen Air International are hereby called upon to show cause as to why action should not be initiated under Rule 341 of CARs, 1994 for suspension of your AOC or under Rule 334 of CARs, 1994 for imposition of appropriate financial penalty on you, as the case may be,” added the CAA communication to the SAI.
The sources claimed that the CAA issued such letters just to save its skin in case of any disaster or future inquiries on one hand and to put pressure on the airlines on the other, but after reaching at an understanding with the airlines the fine ‘ridiculously low’ under the CAA laws was imposed.
Responding to Dawn queries, Pakistan Air Lines Pilots Association (PALPA) chief Sohail Baloch said that flight duty time limitations were prescribed globally after scientific calculations keeping in view how long a person could function perfectly and after how much time the fatigue factor could creep in and if the person concerned was a pilot then even slight lapse due to overwork, fatigue, etc, could translate into a disaster not only for himself, but also for hundreds of passengers in the aircraft and people on the ground as well.
He said that such duty time restrictions were prescribed by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and had to be followed globally.
He said that due to such factors in long-haul flights double set of cockpit crew was employed so that they worked for limited and allowed number of hours and then took rest and the other set of the crew could take over flight operation.
He said that the airlines resorted to illegal practices to cut costs and increase their profits, but actually they were compromising on air safety, which was of the prime importance and should never be compromised.
“The CAA should also not take a lenient view of such illegal activities and should take stern actions against the airlines, as well as the crew, so that they refrain from continuing to commit the illegalities.”
The SAI did not respond to queries sent to it through email, and despite repeated attempts the SAI officials concerned could not be approached. The sources said that the airlines be made to inform the intending passengers that the pilot of their flight had been / would be flying more hours than prescribed by the law and would be stressed or fatigued, so that the passengers knew about the condition of the pilots and took an informed decision that if they wanted to travel in an aircraft being operated by overworked, stressed and fatigued crew, or not.