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Airlines back DGCA in dispute with engineers
11 Sep, 2007, 0454 hrs IST, Sudipto Dey, TNN

NEW DELHI: Airlines now want to bat for the regulator - Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) - whose decision to allow pilots to undertake transit checks of aircraft has been challenged in court by the Aircraft Maintenance Engineers (AME) associations.

In a petition filed in the Delhi High Court, airlines, under the aegis of Federation of Indian Airlines (FIA), the industry body representing full-service and budget carriers, has strongly supported DGCA's move which allows approved pilots to undertake transit inspection of an aircraft.

DGCA sources said that FIA has now sought to be a party to the ongoing legal tussle in the Delhi High Court between the regulator and the associations representing aircraft maintenance engineers. The high court is expected to take up the issue of whether to make airlines party to the proceedings on Tuesday.

In January this year, DGCA amended the Airworthiness Rules to enable a pilot to do transit inspection on an aircraft, and issue "certificate of release" in stations where maintenance engineers where not present. To be eligible, the pilot has to undergo a specified 10-day training.

Transit checks - regarded as a part of preventive maintenance - involve physical inspection of the aircraft before it is allowed to continue flying to its next destination. Before this amendment came into effect, an airline used to fly maintenance engineers on each flight to undertake transit checks.

Engineer associations see this move by DGCA as helping airlines to reduce operating cost. However, senior airline executives point out that allowing preventive maintenance by an approved pilot is a global practice. "In fact, pilots of scheduled airlines operating 18-seater and 75-seater aircraft are already permitted to carry out transit checks in India," said an airline executive.

A senior DGCA official pointed out that the latest amendment only extended the permission to passenger aircraft of up to 200 seats and for cargo aircraft with payload capacity of 15 tonnes.