Aviation CSR: On a Wing and a Prayer

During the past month, the Indian civil aviation industry has been embroiled in shocking revelations about the levels of mismanagement when it comes to hiring pilots. There have been several near misses and pilots from pretty much every major airline have been arrested for falsifying their records.

India's directorate general of Civil Aviation (DGCA), which is responsible for pilot examinations and granting licences, has announced it will look into the credentials of 4,000 commercial airline pilots even as more arrests are expected. Since the scandal broke out in March, at least 15 pilots have been arrested and/or are under scrutiny. What does this say about CSR in one of India's fastest growing sectors?

It's said less than one-thirds of the pilots have been screened so far and nine commanders and three co-pilots have been found to be fakes and caught by the police, while some more have so far evaded arrest. Flying schools are also in on this racket with the state-run school in Jaipur, Rajasthan being identified as the biggest culprit. While one needs to fly 200 hours to become eligible for a commercial pilot licence (CPL), some schools make them fly for barely 50 hours and give the logbook entry for the required number.

So far, investigators have found that all sorts of documents have been forged - from marksheets for high school exams for Maths and Physics, to certificates for flying hours, where flying instructors collude with candidates. While the flying club saves money, students sail through faster to the next round. Even in examinations conducted by the DGCA, students who failed forged their marksheets and submitted these to the aviation body which did not corroborate the marks against its own records.

While the DGCA says that there are going to be tough crackdowns on their 'illegal' pilots, it is fair to say that many passengers have already been piloted by one them. The onus is on both the government as well as the airlines themselves to ensure that pilots are properly qualified. The Civil Aviation Ministry today issued a statement to say that there was "no need to panic." Airlines themselves have no independent way of detecting a fake pilot license. There are 51.5 million annual domestic air passengers in India which these carriers are accountable to and in the face of this scandal, severe proactive measures need to be taken.

Surprisingly in spite of these issues there has not been any major aviation accidents in the recent past. Until this mess clears up, let us hope that this record still holds good.

Photo Credit: CNN-IBN