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Firefighters pick holes in airport’s fire services

As the Mumbai airport prepares to undergo a transition from public to private hands,the differences in the airport’s 270-strong fire department havqe led to a section of firefighters alleging that there are glaring loopholes in the working of the key department ever since the airport’s privatisation.

Written by Shashank Shekhar | Mumbai | Published: March 28, 2009 5:35:09 am

As the Mumbai airport prepares to undergo a transition from public to private hands,the differences in the airport’s 270-strong fire department havqe led to a section of firefighters alleging that there are glaring loopholes in the working of the key department ever since the airport’s privatisation.

The Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL) had recruited a fresh batch of 100-odd firefighters in phases. According to a firefighter at the Mumbai airport,who did not wish to be named,the new recruits are not only inexperienced but they have not received the mandatory Fire Training Certificates (FTCs) for aviation firefighters.

According to an airport official,there are two specialised aviation firefighting schools in the country — Delhi and Kolkata — run by the Airports Authority of India (AAI). Once a candidate is recruited as a trainee firefighter,he can only undertake full service after receiving an FTC from either of these two schools.

But an MIAL spokesperson refuted the allegation,saying that the MIAL had conducted a 12-week firefighting course for the recruits at the airport itself. “We had conducted the 12-week course for 108 new recruits under the supervision of an ex-principal of the Kolkata school and he was the course consultant,” he said.

“The training was done as per the ICAO standards.”

The firefighting department at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA) has a total of 270 staff,of which 150 have been recruited by the MIAL and another 120 belong to the AAI. The latter group is uncertain of its future services at the airport.

The AAI firefighters,however,do not agree with the MIAL. “People who do not even have six months’ experience are taking care of runway emergencies while most of us have been confined to the control room,” said a disgruntled firefighter.

According to one of them,there also exists a lot of irregularities in the entire firefighting setup. “There has been a lot of renovation work being carried out and new taxiways are being built,but we have not been given a single familiarisation tour of the operational area,which is a must for a firefighter,” he said.

“Their training took place in-house. But basically,it is a field job and giving a candidate in-house training makes it feel like coming to the workplace,” said another firefighter.

“As per the ICAO recommendation,they have to undergo training in their probationary phase. However,they cannot put anybody on the job before putting them through training,” a DGCA official said.

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