BANGALORE: The Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) now wants civil chopper pilots to obtain proper weather updates before flying. Logic: Numerous chopper accidents in the recent past have occurred due to pilots flying in inclement weather. But, the pilots say in unison that the regulatory authority is running away from their responsibility, putting them into a real fix. Their logic: DGCA must ask MET department to improve weather predictability.
“Weather” the pilots like it or not, a recent two-page circular issued by Joint Director of DGCA A K Saran clearly puts the onus on them. Express sought the reactions through a professional guild of Indian helicopter pilots, with many responding on condition of anonymity.
“Overconfidence, overweight of the helicopter and weather are the biggest enemies of a chopper pilot. A pilot can control the first two, but not weather. A pilot who is always weather-wise will never require his superior skills to get out of an unforeseen situation. The DGCA requires to put pressure on the Met department to improve weather predictability, establish Met facilities at all division levels and most importantly update it at every 30-minute intervals so that the pilots can easily access it,” a senior pilot said.
They claimed that the DGCA regulations are borrowed from the United Kingdom, a nation smaller in size than UP. “Can we manage a country like India which is much bigger than UK, but with the same amount of infrastructure? We do not have adequate coverage of MET station and R/T (radio transmission) for the entire extent of our country. Helicopter operations have always been given the last preference while in the developed and Western world they are the most important. The DGCA is still yet to come to terms with it,” another pilot said.
The pilot say that the circular does little to address the primary concerns of helicopter flying, and attempts to solve it typically in the fixed-wing way. “Aeroplanes fly at higher altitudes and are benefited by the generalised information being made available by the IMD website. Helicopters very rarely fly between airfields and, they have to operate from helipads where the necessary weather expertise does not exist. They require more specific weather inputs from such locations,” sources said.
A Hyderabad-based chopper expert said that the best option would be simulators. “Helicopters do not fly (always) over urban areas, or areas covered by Met forecasts or having internet connectivity. To expect enroute weather trend to be accurate will be a mistake. A pilot has to learn to take correct decisions leading to safe flight (this sometimes comes from experience). Through the use of simulators you can create various situations for training,” the pilot said.
The DGCA says that they would do random ramp inspections of helicopter flights to see whether their weather wish is implemented.