Weeks after the Germanwings crash in the French Alps in which 150 people died, allegedly because the co-pilot deliberately flew the plane into a mountain, Air India pilots who are warring with the airline over salaries, have warned that they are "highly-stressed and financially over-burdened". This, they say in a letter to civil aviation regulator DGCA, is a "recipe disaster."
The DGCA has not responded so far to the complaint, which was sent yesterday.
A co-pilot who did not wish to be named told NDTV, "My sleep cycles are being affected. My mind is not at peace. All this contributes towards stress in the cockpit. I am not in the right state of mind to do my job professionally as is expected from me."
Another co-pilot flying A-320s said, also on the condition of anonymity, "We have check lists when we operate - engine check list, before take-off check lists etc. These we know well, but the moment there is something out of the ordinary, we aren't mentally prepared. The aircraft are also old and we don't feel confident in the cockpit."
The pair are among about 30 pilots who graduated from the state-run pilot training institute Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Uran Academy and hired by Air India as permanent employees. However, they claim that about three years after joining the airline, they were made contract workers, who are paid an ad-hoc salary every month which is never more than a third of their original salary. They also allege that the management has been threatening them with dire consequences if they don't agree with the new terms of their employment, which includes no sick leave.
Currently, no airline in India requires pilots to undergo psychological evaluations at period intervals - they only need to clear it once at the time of joining.
For passengers unnerved after a year that has seen horrific plane accidents internationally, facts like that are likely to matter much more than attributing the claims of pilot fatigue to an arm-wrestling tactic for a better deal.
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