Air India Pilot Unions Demand Removal of DGCA Chief over Kozhikode Plane Crash Comments

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Two leading pilot unions of Air India on Tuesday said DGCA chief Arun Kumar must be immediately replaced with a suitable candidate with substantial knowledge of the aviation sector and operational experience as his comments in the aftermath of the plane crash at Kozhikode airport reveal a total lack of technical know-how and an "amateurish view".

According to the Indian Commercial Pilots' Union (ICPA) and Indian Pilots' Guild (IPG), Kumar in one of the televised interviews said the plane's "landing was not smooth".

He also stated that the "two fellows are dead" (referring to the pilots) and that the "landing it seems was not appropriate", according to a letter jointly written by the two unions to Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri on Tuesday.

Pilot-in-command Captain Deepak Vasant Sathe, 58, and co-pilot Captain Akhilesh Kumar, 32, were the ones operating the Air India Express flight with 190 that overshot the runway and crashed at the Kozhikode airport in Kerala on Friday night. Both pilots, along with 16 other people on board, died in the accident. Air India Express is a wholly owned subsidiary of Air India. The two deceased pilots were not part of either of the two aforementioned unions.

The unions noted, "Whether a landing technique is appropriate or a contributory factor to a mishap can only be ascertained after a thorough, evidence backed investigation and not by speculative, casual remarks. The above remarks of Kumar on news channels only go to reveal his total lack of technical knowledge and amateurish view of the unfortunate accident."

It is an established scientific fact that so-called "smooth" touchdowns may be counterproductive in certain adverse weather conditions and may pose a significant risk to safety, it stated. Puri, when he visited Kozhikode a day after the accident, told reporters that both the pilots were very experienced and "there is absolutely no doubt over their competence".

Puri said that Sathe, a former wing commander of the Air Force, was one of the most-experienced commanders with more than 10,000 flying hours and had landed aircraft 27 times at the Kozhikode airport. Kumar had a total flying experience of 1,723 hours.

The unions requested Puri that "Arun Kumar IAS is immediately replaced with a suitable candidate with substantial aviation knowledge and operational experience, to serve the country as the Director General of Civil Aviation".

Air India Express on Tuesday said 74 passengers injured in the plane crash in Kozhikode have been discharged from hospital after "obtaining complete fitness".