Six unions ask DGCA to revoke suspension of pilot's license in New York-New Delhi flight
A joint forum of six unions on Tuesday appealed to aviation regulator DGCA to revoke the suspension of the license of the pilot-in-command of the Air India flight from New York to Delhi last November where a male passenger allegedly urinated on a female co-passenger.
Last week, Directorate General of Civil Aviation suspended the license of the pilot for three months, imposed a penalty of Rs 30 lakh on Air India and Rs 3 lakh on the director of the airline's in-flight services related to the urination incident which happened on November 26, 2022.
In a letter to the regulator, the forum said that while there is a groundswell of "public pressure" for action, given the serious nature of the allegations of the complainant, there is a need to evaluate the same with the nature of the Pilot-in-Command's duties and responsibilities, among others and to evaluate the facts that came up before the pilots and crew on the said flight.
Citing various aspects, the forum has appealed to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to "withdraw the harsh punishment and suspension of the PIC". it said.
The forum represents six unions -- Indian Pilots Guild, Indian Commercial Pilots Association, Air Corporation Employees Union, Air India Employees Union, All India Cabin Crew Association and Airline Pilots Association of India.
The letter also comes on a day when Air India said it has closed the internal probe into the case and will also assist the flight's PIC with an appeal against suspension of his license by DGCA as the airline deems the action as "excessive." According to the letter, the entire crew comes under the judicial and operational control of the PIC.
It is in this light that the PIC had signed all reports and then directed the cabin supervisor to forward all reports to the company and its senior officers instantly upon landing to discuss the next step with the company, which were done and verified, it said.
Given the actual facts and non-existence of any eyewitnesses, it was decided by the PIC in consultation with his crew, that the passenger in seat 8C Mishra was not unruly, and could not be classified as unruly, as per the letter.
Further, the forum said it was informed that both parties had amicably settled the issue on their own. "As per the CAR (Civil Aviation Requirements), the company's senior officers had 12 hours to study all reports and report the matter ahead to the DGCA, and many more days to discuss the issue to file the FIR if they felt it was required".
According to the forum, DGCA's press note also states "alleged violation" by the accused, which in itself implies that there is a doubt (legal or otherwise) whether the person committed such an act or not, or is yet to be ascertained and proven.
The accused Shankar Mishra was arrested by police.
Whilst not condoning the alleged act, the lack of evidence and eyewitnesses, many contradictory accounts received on board and Mishra's polite and cooperative decorum was the very reason that the PIC, the cabin supervisor, and the crew on board AI-102 could not have branded him as an unruly passenger, the forum said in the letter.
It also noted that since (Mishra) did not exhibit any such traits, they had no occasion to restrain him.
"We respectfully advise that the implications of this order on the pilots, cabin crew and staff of all airlines nationwide are vast and will threaten the very fabric of civil aviation. This order must be crafted as a precedent making opportunity.
"Unfortunately, based on this order, crew and staff in uniform are henceforth expected to rigorously engage in warning, restraining and handing over likely innocent passengers merely based on 'allegations of any nature' or divert aircraft for the same purposes, rather than risk suspension," the forum said.
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