Indian fake pilots endangering lives

THE news that the crime branch of the Delhi Police has arrested four persons, including a senior official of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and a pilot, in connection with the “fake pilot license scam” has traumatized the Indian public. The arrested official, Pradeep Kumar, is an assistant director in the Directorate of Aircraft Engineering. The other arrests include a pilot, Pradeep Tyagi, and two touts, Lalit Jain and Pankaj Jain, DCP (Crime) Ashok Chand said. Besides, the crime branch is on the lookout for nine suspects in the case. It is also probing if any other pilot was involved in this racket of procuring flying licenses without acquiring adequate number of flying hours or clearing written exams. The Mumbai crime branch has identified one of the two touts who helped many pilots forge mark sheets.

Sources say Pradeep Kumar is expected to spill the beans as he is understood to have been the key player in the chain that helped those aspiring for CPL (Commercial Pilot License) and higher ATPL (Airline Transport Pilot License) by expediting clearance of papers of pilots engaged by Pradeep Tyagi and Lalit Jain by charging money. So far, 10 persons are under the scanner while the authorities are checking the licenses of hundreds others. The issue assumed worrying proportion after pilots Parminder Kaur Gulati, Meenakshi Singhal (both IndiGo), JK Verma (Air India) and Swaran Singh Talwar of MDLR, Syed Habib Ali and Bhupender Singh were found to have obtained their ATPL (on the basis of forged documents).

Besides, two SpiceJet pilots were arrested for over-logging flying hours. Indian Civil Aviation Minister Vyalar Ravi has promised stern action against the guilty. Notably, the fudging of flying hours is done at the level of flying schools. A person is eligible to fly a commercial aircraft only after completing 200 hours of flying during the training. However, the 14 pilots whose licenses were revoked had not flown the mandatory hours and were alleged to have got fake certificates from a Rajasthan training institute. Similar cases of over-logging have been reported from other flying clubs as well, including from the one in Hisar. Meanwhile, sources say that the DGCA’s examination cell was deliberately established away from the main office near the Safdarjung airport so that there was no influence on the examination branch. The standalone system, however, worked for the benefit of those wanting to misuse it.

The arrested pilots were believed to have paid touts Rs 10 to 12 lakh for getting the fake mark sheet. “Computers are not linked between the two DGCA offices to ensure they are not tampered with. This worked to the benefit of those working against the system,” sources say, adding the “first culprit was obviously the person who issued the fake mark sheet. However, the entire exercise cannot be completed without the help of officials in the issuing department”. However, the corruption cycle doesn’t end here, the problem also existing at the flight inspection directorate (FID) where licenses are inspected, issued and renewed. There are around 10,000 CPL holders and about 4,000 ATPL holders, each of whom has to visit the DGCA at least once every six months either for license or medical renewal or endorsements of the type of aircraft on their license. Pilots claim that even if they have cleared all their papers and have all documents in place, they have to shell out money even to get the initial license on time.The Daily Mail is of the view that doling out licenses to fake pilots is the worst crime since it endangers the lives of passengers along with the candidate, who has paid money to the tout for securing his pilot’s license wrongfully. It is hoped that a lesson is learnt from the exposé and severe action is taken against the perpetrators of the crime. – Dailymailtimes