A plane used to train Indian pilots had no engine

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4 June 2015 2:25 AM AEST: Indian aviation industry is under expert scrutiny once again following a June 2 report published by Bloomberg which revealed rampant fudging of pilot training hours both by commercial airlines and flying clubs.

The case of one particular student pilot mentioned in the report is bound to strike horror in the hearts of all who travel by air every now and then. Anupam Verma’s certificate apparently shows 360 flying hours whereas he said he co-piloted a plane for only 35 minutes, not even 35 hours.

“What if I was flying and had an emergency? I wouldn’t even know how or where to land. We’d kill not only the passengers, but we might crash in a village and kill even more people,” the 25 year old was quoted by Anurag Kotoky, India Aviation Reporter for Bloomberg.

The report also mentions a Chennai-based expert who said the dodgy practice is so rampant that one of the planes used to log flying hours for pilot training did not have any engine at all.

Mohan Ranganathan, a commercial pilot-turned aviation safety consultant, confirmed a 2011 audit discovered that most flying clubs in India inflated the flying hours of the trainee pilots. “Hours were logged with aircraft not even in airworthy condition. One aircraft had no engines but several hundred hours were logged.”

The rorting of flying hours in India is possible because the hours are logged by hand in contrast to the practice in the USA for example where flying schools use a system called Hobbs Meter which, it is said, automatically logs data for a training aircraft.

The report observes that the dynamics of aviation safety has undergone a fundamental change over the last few years. Citing cases like the missing Malaysia jet and the deliberately-destroyed Germanwings flight, it said the ‘spotlight on aviation safety has swung from aircraft reliability to pilot reliability.

India still has good air safety records
Surprisingly, India has successfully maintained a good aviation safety record in recent years. Citing Aviation Safety Network data, Bloomberg said the number of fatal air accidents in India since 2000 has declined, the last major accident being the deaths of 158 passengers in Mangalore when Air India Express plane overshot a runway.

It is noteworthy that after the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration downgraded India’s safety rating in 2014, ‘India hired more safety inspectors and carried out a fresh audit of its airlines. The FAA restored India to its top safety tier in April’.

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