Pilots at Air India seem to be divided over the appointment of A Kathpalia as Director of Operations, with pilots’ union IPG today saying they have no objection to his promotion.
The statement from the Indian Pilots’ Guild (IPG) comes a day after Indian Commercial Pilots’ Association (ICPA) protested against the elevation of Kathpalia.
IPG represents the pilots of Air India flying wide-bodied aircraft such as Boeing 777 and 787, while ICPA is the union of pilots operating narrow-body planes which include Airbus 320.
There are around 1,600 pilots employed with Air India.
In February, aviation regulator DGCA suspended his flying licence for three months after he had skipped compulsory pre-flight medical test on several occasions.
On March 30, the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet approved appointment of Kathpalia as Director (Operations) of Air India for five years.
“We would like to place on record that the vast majority of pilots of Air India have no objection to this appointment which is the sole prerogative of the government… and have no doubt that all due diligence and processes have been followed before his appointment,” IPG said in a letter.
Further, the letter, written to the Cabinet Secretary, said IPG “would like to express our full confidence” in Kathpalia’s abilities to do justice to the post.
Copies of the letter have been sent to Civil Aviation Minister, among others.
IPG said an impression is being sought to be created that all pilots of Air India are not in favour of this appointment and that a group of pilots has been opposing Kathpalia over the last two years, ever since he was appointed Executive Director – Operations.
On Friday, the Indian Commercial Pilots’ Association (ICPA) alleged that Kathpalia had willfully evaded the breath analyser test and fudged pre-flight register by signing it without undergoing breath analyser test.
In a letter to the Civil Aviation Minister, ICPA had said that if Kathpalia is exonerated of the suspension ordered by DGCA, then “all pilots in India who had been suspended for similar offence should also be exonerated”.
“We humbly request you not to support and exonerate ‘Corrupt Officials’ just to ensure he fits the requirement for the selection of the post of Director (Operations), Air India Ltd,” the letter from ICPA had said.