Raising concern over the handling of VVIP operations at Air India by one of its executive directors despite his alleged involvement in a near mid-air crash of a former Prime Minister’s aircraft, the airline’s pilots body, ICPA, has sought immediate action from the government in this regard. The Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA), in a letter to Minister of State in the PMO Jitender Singh, has alleged that a court case was pending against Air India Executive Director Arvind Khatpalia, when he appeared for an interview for the top job in the national flier’s Operations department.
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The copy of the letter has also been marked to National Security Advisor Ajit Doval.
“We have come to know that Arvind Khatpalia was the Executive Commander on the VVIP flight carrying the then Prime Minister. In spite of seriously endangering the safety of Air India One, Khatpalia continues to function as Executive Director for operations,” the ICPA said in the letter.
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ICPA is the pilots union of erstwhile Indian airlines. It claims representation of nearly 800 pilots in Air India.
On November 11, 2007, the Pilot-in-Command of Air India One–the official aircraft for VVIPs, which was flying then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, reportedly forgot to lower the landing gear as required. The crew did so only after being alerted by the Moscow Air Traffic Control and warning signs in the cockpit.
Kathpalia is awaiting the government’s nod for his selection to the post of Director (operations) following his selection by the Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSE) earlier this year.
“His promotion to the post of GM and Executive Director is also questionable as he suppressed the fact regarding a court case during the selection process,” the ICPA alleged.
“This serious lapse (in flight safety of the VVIP flight) was again suppressed by the Executive commander of the flight. It is more startling to note that in spite of endangering the safety of the then Prime minister, he is at present being allowed to head all VVIP operations at Air India.
“We fail to understand as to how the top management of Air India is allowing him to continue to function as Executive Director (Operations) and also the in-charge of all VVIP operations, especially at a time when our Honorable Prime Minister is on regular international trips, ” the letter said.
Terming the issue as a “matter of safety concern of passengers as well as VVIP operations”, the ICPA has sought “necessary action” from the government on the issue.