India cancels licences of 14 pilots suspected of faking documents


aircraft in slums

In this Monday, Sept.28, 2009 file photo, Air India aircrafts are seen in the background of slums adjoining the international airport in Mumbai, India.

India has cancelled the licences of 14 airline pilots after police accused them of faking documents, a senior aviation official said on Friday, but he dismissed worries about safety in Indian skies.

"They have been accused of faking their flying hours," E.K. Bharat Bhushan, director general of civil aviation, told Reuters. "Police have filed (a case) and on that basis we have cancelled their licences."

Media reports of unqualified pilots have set off alarms in India, where the booming economy has led to an explosion in the number of people who can afford to fly. They have also raised questions about India’s poor record in enforcing laws.

The reports came after a statement this month by the civil aviation minister that 57 pilots were caught between January 2009 and November 2010 with alcohol limits over those permitted, but only 11 were fired.

When asked if the events meant India’s airlines were not safe, Bhushan said: "Not at all, all that is being exaggerated."

Police and authorities are conducting checks to see if more pilots may be flying with false records, he said. Airlines have said they are committed to safety and would comply with all rules.

On Friday, low-cost carrier Spicejet said a pilot suspected of using false documents to obtain a licence had resigned, days after she was suspended. Spicejet had earlier fired two pilots on suspicion of misrepresenting their flying hours in order to obtain licences.

India’s 6 major carriers flew 52 million people in 2010.

The last major air accident in India occurred in May 2010, when an Air India Express plane crashed in the southern city of Bangalore, killing 158 people. It was India’s first major crash in about 10 years.

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