Saturday, March 26, 2011

15 India pilots lose licences for cheating

INDIAN aviation authorities have cancelled the licences of 15 commercial pilots for exaggerating their flying time during training, an official said today.

The pilots received their eligibility certificates from a flying school in the northwestern state of Rajasthan, said E.K. Bharatbhushan, the director-general of civil aviation.

Police have arrested four pilots with fake aviation licences in the past two weeks, leading to concerns about unqualified pilots endangering the lives of thousands of travellers. Opposition MPs have accused the government of failing to prevent corruption in licensing.

Aviation authorities have ordered officials to check the documents of all airline pilots working in the country. They also plan to examine training and licensing procedures at all flying schools, Bharatbhushan told The Associated Press.

Authorities are concerned about whether flying schools are following rules issued by aviation regulatory authorities and if they are logging genuine flying hours for students.

Air travel has boomed in India as its economy has grown in the past decade, leading to the rise of a slew of private airlines and a shortage of experienced pilots.

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3. Oil companies threat to stop fuel supply to AI

NEW DELHI: Keeping cash-strapped Air India airborne is now proving to be an uphill task for the government. Almost four months after putting it on cash-and-carry, oil marketing PSUs have warned that jet fuel supply to the Maharaja could soon be stopped unless their daily bill is cleared in full. 

According to sources, the Air India-Indian Airlines combine's daily aviation turbine fuel (ATF) bill has now shot up to Rs 18.5 crore due to successive hikes in crude prices and it has dues of about Rs 2,400 crore. Following mounting dues, AI's credit facility was withdrawn and it was put on cash-and-carry last December. 

With oil PSUs say they are under severe stress following recent spike in crude price and that AI must pay up, cabinet secretary K M Chandrasekhar has called a high-level meeting of the aviation and petroleum ministries on Friday. The objective is to find a middle path that could prevent the national carrier from getting grounded and also protect the oil companies' interest. 

"AI has been paying Rs 13.5 crore daily while oil companies have warned that their daily bill of Rs 18.5 crore must be cleared or else they will soon stop supply to AI. But the airline is in no position to pay more as sometimes the daily fuel bill itself is more than the daily earning. We are unable to pay salaries on time. The situation is very serious and the cabinet secretary has called a meeting on this particular issue as also the liquidity crisis in AI," said an official. 

Aviation minister Vayalar Ravi has taken up this issue with his petroleum counterpart S Jaipal Reddy. But considering spiralling crude prices that have put oil PSUs under severe strain, the oil ministry is yet to relent for AI. 

While the most serious threat, that could lead to AI being grounded, over non-payment of dues is coming from oil companies, there are a host of other vendors who have been asking for payment. These include spare parts and IT service suppliers. The privately run metro airports are paid from time to time to run operations from there. Controlled by the aviation ministry, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) has been asked to keep quiet on its dues of over Rs 600 crore from AI. 

With combined losses of over Rs 13,000 crore along with high cost debt of almost Rs 40,000 crore, AI's financials are proving to be too tough to be revived. The airline got Rs 2,000 crore as equity infusion last fiscal and may get a similar amount in 2011-12. Recently, the government admitted in Parliament that the airline earns Rs 36 crore a day and loses Rs 57 crore-a daily loss of Rs 21 crore. 

Neha Jain

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