Pilots threaten to pull out of AI's Kabul flights

Union says conditions are unsafe, want management to clarify on situation and safety measures

sweta-ranjan

Sweta Ranjan | April 2, 2011



Citing safety reasons, the Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA) has raised the issue of Air India's flight operations to Afghanistan. ICPA has sought clarifications from the management on the issue, asking for immediate withdrawal of flights to Kabul.

ICPA pilots have threatedned to stop flying to Kabul if the management does not clarify. The pilots' union has demanded for clear-cut guidelines for flying to Afghanistan and other war-torn countries as such flights “put the life of the crew and passengers in danger” in a letter to the airline authorities.

The letter has raised issues like “As Kabul airport is surrounded by high terrain, there is no special single engine procedure for Kabul which has the approval of ‘Civil Aviation Authority of Afghanistan’, the airspace is not free of conflicting traffic resulting in frequent occurances of traffic advisories and resolution advisories, no special procedure for unlawful interference has been devised after the Kandahar hijack of IC814”.

Other major issues on which ICPA has been demanding for a check are poor quality of Air Traffic Control in troubled Afghanistan. There have been regular reports of vehicular movement affecting ILS signals, which can be fatal during low visibility are a matter of serious concern for the pilots operating there.

What makes the matter worse is the unavailability of topographical maps of the region with the flight crew. The topographical maps are provided to the crew for sectors like Jammu, Srinagar, NorthEast but for a critical sector like Kabul the mandatory requirement is not fulfilled.

Poor quality of the runway at Kabul airport has always been a matter of concern, ICPA maintains. In case of grounding or night stopping there is no measure related to safety and security provided the crew, it notes in its letter.

The ICPA had earlier raised this issue with the AI management qand claimed the that the airlines replies were unsatisfactory. Stating that the conditions in Kabul put the life of the crew and passengers in "jeopardy", it said if the pilots do not get any suitable reply, the union would be "forced to ask the members not to operate flights in these unsafe conditions".
 

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