Just for sitting in the co-pilot’s seat for 35 minutes, 25 year-old Mr Anupam Verma received a certificate showing that he has flown an aircraft for 360 hours. Mr Anupam is one of many pilots in India who are facing charges for falsely over-declaring the number of flight hours and ground training they have, according to documents submitted in the Indian courts.
When he first started out as a pilot, Mr Anupam was given 2.8 million subsidy by the Indian government for his training to become a commercial pilot. But he admits that despite all his “training”, he doesn’t know what to do during emergencies or even how and where to land.
“We’d kill not only the passengers, but we might crash in a village and kill even more people.” He said.
According to Mr Anupam, he sued the flying school for return of his money when he realized that he would not gain the necessary flight training and experience for him to operate safely.
But not all pilots are like Mr Anupam. Surging demand for pilots has created a insatiable demand for new Indian pilots. This has led to serious industry lapses in hiring of pilots.
In 2011, the Indian government reviewed the licenses of 4,000+ of its airline pilots in the country as the public raged over a case where 18 so-called pilots were found to have used fake documents to get promoted or certified as pilots.
“The fudging of log books is rampant both in airlines and in flying clubs,” said Mr Mohan Ranganathan, a former commercial pilot and aviation safety consultant based in Chennai. He said the 2011 audit found violations in most flying clubs in the country. “Hours were logged with aircraft not even in airworthy condition. One aircraft had no engines, but several hundred hours were logged.”
According to another expert, a retired commander who has flight experience in India of over 40 years, over-logging is common practice in India and has been around since the 1960s. He said airlines can soon tell if a pilot has faked certificates because they lack the basic skills, but the carrier cannot fire them because they have Directorate-General of Civil Aviation licences. To bring them up to scratch, airlines have to do expensive corrective training, he said.