Raising concerns regarding passenger safety due to airlines changing stipulated flight and duty time limitations (FDTLs) that may leave pilots and the cabin crew fatigued, the Delhi High Court on Friday questioned the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) for allowing airlines to continue with the practice. A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar said that the DGCA was going against its own Aircraft Rules by permitting such changes, and questioned its power to do so. “We cannot have regulations which go beyond the rules in order to cater to the market requirements of airlines. It is manifestly illegal and a threat to passenger safety. You have no power to permit variations (of FDTLs),” the court told the DGCA, adding that if it wanted the power, it would have to get the Aircraft Act and Rules amended.
The court’s observations came after the DGCA contended that the variations were being permitted as there have been no accidents because of that, and also, no pilot has complained of fatigue till date. Irked over the DGCA’s submission, the bench directed the regulator to disclose the number of changes it has permitted post amendment of the Aircraft Rules in 2016 when its power to make variations to FDTLs was taken away. It also ordered the regulator to produce its original records of the requests received from the different airlines as well as a tabulation of the exemptions or variations that were granted before the amendment and were still in force. The bench further directed the DGCA to state on affidavit that it has not granted any exemptions or variations after the 2016 amendment to the Aircraft Rules.
The court has now listed the PIL, which raises issues of pilot and air crew fatigue, obstacles around the IGI Airport and passenger safety for April 18. According to petitioner Yashwant Shenoy, the maximum flying time is around 125 hours per week and this gets varied according to the requirements of an airline, each of which has a different FDTLs.