Opinion: A record number of pilots suspended this year. Who is to be blamed?

Blaming just the pilots for the serious accidents, may not be the right approach, say industry experts

The past few months have seen a spate of pilot suspensions. On September 18 alone, five pilots were suspended – two from Pawan Hans and three from IndiGo – by the industry regulator DGCA.

In September till now, at least seven have already been suspended.

A report quoting DGCA officials, said that 41 pilots have been suspended till August this year, for their actions that led to ‘serious  accidents.’ That is a huge jump from just 11 suspensions, over the same period last year.

And if one takes in number of pilots suspended for all the reasons, including failing the breathalyser test, the total number of suspensions climb to over 70, in these eight months.

“This is alarmingly high. Last when so many suspensions happened was in 2016,” said Amit Singh, an industry veteran and Fellow of London’s Royal Aeronautical Society.

Both the sets of numbers are alarming. Recently, two Air India pilots were suspended for failing the alcohol test. In fact, they refused to take the test.

At the same time, industry observers question if only pilots can be blamed for the ‘serious incidents.’

Easy targets

“Pilots are easy targets,” says Singh, who has held senior positions at IndiGo and AirAsia India. “And it is doubtful if the DGCA is following the correct protocol in investigations that have led to the suspensions,” he adds.

He cites the example of two SpiceJet pilots who were suspended in July. Their aircraft had veered to the right after landing at the Kolkata airport, and broke runway lights.

“The license of the two pilots has been suspended for a period of six months.  But what is the reason for the suspension? Suspension without a reason is unjust and a misuse beyond the granted statutory power,” says Singh.

He adds that the law required DGCA to give in writing, the specific reason for the suspension. But the order suspending the SpiceJet pilots

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