ibnlive » India

Dec 07, 2010 at 11:19am IST

Flying schools using obsolete aircraft

Mumbai: An RTI application has revealed that while flying schools charge exorbitant fees to budding pilots. But new facts revealed in an RTI reply shows that accidents abound at these flying schools, causing deaths and destruction to aircraft. The RTI also shows the schools are using phased out aircraft, and throws up questions on the quality of instructors and maintenance at the schools.

Every year, some 1800 students obtain a CPL or commercial pilots license from India's flying schools.

A look at the reply to RTI lays bare the quality of the training of these pilots: the DGCA's list of accidents over the last five years at flying schools shows one to three major accidents per year, in which aircraft are being "destroyed", or the damage is 'substantial' resulting in 2 deaths in 2008; 1 death in 2009 and two deaths in 2010.

The reasons for the crashes, as revealed in the RTI point directly at poor quality of instructors.

"Delayed corrective action by instructor", "failure to notice high tension cables causing landing gear to get entangled" or "not adhering to Standard Operating Procedure" are just some of the reasons. The accidents are leading to "killing both instructor and pilot" or "both receiving serious injuries".

The RTI also reveals these schools are using "phased out" aircraft. All but one aircraft destroyed or damaged in training is a Cessna 152: a model of aircraft phased out in 1985, 25 years ago.

The other aircraft destroyed is a Cessna 172R model, phased out in the 1990s.

Vipul Saxena an aviation expert says, "These aircraft by themselves are safe, but the gap in technology between old aircraft and new ones is great. What is the use if our pilots are training on these old aircraft which are nothing like current ones?

Experts agree that lack of its maintenance at these schools is the key cause for the accidents.

Raj Shetty, flight training consultant reveals, "Flying schools are supposed to do 25-hr checks, 50-hour checks on these aircraft, but they just put a rubberstamp on it, and let it go."

The DGCA has begun a crackdown on flying schools, looking into longstanding allegations of malpractice..

But the fact remains airlines hire pilots as soon as they get a CPL or commercial pilots license after paying exhorbitant rates, but completing just 200 hours of flying these basic Cessna 152s.

The troubling question is: what is the skill or aptitude of our pilots who come out these schools where accidents abound and where instructors themselves are in question?