Air India Express accident at Calicut was facilitated by the regulator, how?

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  Air India Airbus Landing at Port Blair (Source Dr Puneet) Blaming the pilots alone for an accident is like addressing the symptom rather than the root cause. The root cause of the Calicut accident of IX1344 on 7th Aug 2020 is the poor safety culture prevalent in India and the ineffective regulatory oversight. This landing(YouTube video) can be categorized as a deliberate attempt to endanger the lives of passengers and crew. This is not the Calicut landing but a landing at another critical airport where most of the year the airport experiences tailwinds. Since the airport has a unidirectional runway ( landing from one direction only), the flight crew has no option but to land in tailwinds. The situation worsens during the monsoons when there is a tailwind and the runway is wet and braking action reduces. Action has not been taken either by the regulator or by the airline safety. Why? What is the role of the regulator? The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) is the regulatory

In the business of training pilots, the airlines are making a quick buck



Becoming a pilot is an expensive proposition due to the high training costs without an assurance of a job and on the other hand can be a lucrative business for some. Every year hundreds of youth train to become pilots at flying schools in India and abroad having borrowed huge sums in loans or mortgage. A pilots profession not only pays well but increases the social standing of an individual. The youth is desperate for jobs and the airlines need pilots, but do airlines have a moral and social responsibility of not making pilot training into a business which works towards maximising profits and at some stage even insensitivity?

A pilots profession is an aspirational career for most young adults and more so after the aviation boom with the arrival of airlines like IndiGo and SpiceJet. IndiGo leads the pack in terms of market share and number of aircrafts. The growth of the airlines has been phenomenal and expansion is a never ending process. This requires the recruitment of hundreds of pilots to fly the aircrafts.

We have heard stories of how young girls and boys from not so affluent backgrounds and domiciled in smaller towns and villages have become pilots in these leading airlines. They narrate stories which inspire other youth in the country and abroad. India is the leading state in the highest number of women pilots globally.

IndiGo recently announced a cadet pilot program with a flying school which will train cadets in India and had previously announced training tie up with another flying school which will train cadets outside India. Surprisingly both programs in India and outside India are being advertised at the same flying training cost of INR85 Lac.

Breakup of costs:

Training abroad:
  1. Pre-departure ground school(480hrs)  INR 4,50,000 
  1. CPL Multi Engine IR                             INR 61,44,000  Total INR 65,94,000
  1. A-320 type rating                                  INR 19,95,000
Total Cost INR 85,89,000
Cost of license conversion to Indian license INR 4,00,000

Advertised cost by the Indian flying school INR 85,00,000
The same Indian flying school, prior to the partnership with IndiGo had advertised the difference in cost of India vs Abroad highlighting the cost advantage of training in India.
  1. Ground school (500hrs) INR 1,00,000
  1. CPL ME IR                     INR 26,10,000 Total 27,10,000
  1. A-320 type rating(assuming same) INR 19,95,000
Total cost INR 47,05,000. These were the advertised costs year 2015. Assuming a liberal 20% inflation, the cost of training would jump to approx INR 55,00,000

In essence, the Indian flying school which was advertising a pilots course hiked the course fee by 200% after IndiGo announced the partnership with them.

Unfair trade practice

The advantage of training in India as compared to outside was primarily the considerably lower cost. For each candidate that is trained in India under the IndiGo cadet pilot training program, the airline will earn INR 30lac per candidate as profits over and above reasonable profits. If the flying school trains 200 pilots for IndiGo in a year, this would relate to a INR 60 Cr windfall.

There are other airlines running cadet pilot training at such exorbitant costs by dangling the carrot of an LOI to the prospective cadets in a monopolistic market.

There is an urgent need to pass the cost advantage to the cadets in order to make aviation and the career of pilots more affordable and get better talent rather than restrict it to those who have the money to afford the hefty payouts. In the name of AtmaNirbhar Bharat and Tain in India, Airlines must not be allowed to fleece their own citizens and not passing the cost saving by training in India.

Solution

The solution to this problem which affects the society and quality in terms of talent is to monitor and control the prices of training like it is being done by UGC and AICTE to prevent unfair practices and pricing. If the exorbitant flying training cost becomes a deterrent to talent and meritorious candidates, then it becomes a safety issue.
Another approach would be to establish a common entrance test by the regulator so that only deserving candidates are selected thereby assuring safety through selection.

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