PIA-PALPA dispute: ministry summons representatives
KARACHI (August 04 2010):
The Ministry of Defence (MOD) has summoned top management of PIA and representatives of Pakistan Air Line Pilots' Association (PALPA) to Islamabad to cool down tempers, and settle the disputes between the two, as it is resulting in flight delays, and has left passengers stranded at national and international airports.
Whether it was a human, navigational or procedural error, which caused the tragic AirBlue Airbus crash last week in Margalla hills has yet to be determined by the investigators, the incident apparently forced the Ministry to intervene at the highest level to avoid possible tragedy of the kind in the interest of the travelling public.
Till the time of filing of this report both the management and the pilots were sticking to their respective stance, and none was willing to step back, especially on Flight Duty Time Limitation, a clause in the working agreement, which the pilots assert is not being followed. Minister of Defence Ahmed Mukhtar had sent his representative, a Joint Secretary of the Ministry, last week to Karachi to find out details of the quarrel, which had brought the pilots and the management of PIA at loggerheads.
The Joint Secretary, according to sources, conducted extensive marathon sessions with the two, but failed to bring them to a table together for conversation. Later, he presented a report to the Defence Minister, who has called both parties to Islamabad.
A PIA spokesman said in a statement that Air Navigation Order issued by Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), prescribing rest for pilots, is twice the duration of the flight time of the previous flight and not less than 12 hours, while PIA provides rest to its pilots, and crew, in excess of this minimum stipulated time, ie 48 hours, after a flight of 15 hours, and 24 hours after a 10 hours' flight.
However, the PALPA had been voicing concern over the working conditions of pilots in PIA and also highlighting the waivers given by Civil Aviation Authority to PIA over operating flights against safety standards violating the CAA's Air Navigation Order ANO 4 and PALPA-PIA working agreement.
Globally, the airline pilots negotiate with their management's some relaxation's extending flight duties beyond respective CAA's prescribed rules, which are stricter and do not allow flights by pilots beyond prescribed limits. But the pilots, through their associations, agree for some waivers in flights exceeding time limits in exchange of monetary benefits or other perks. Similarly, the PIA pilots entered into an agreement with the management on 17th November 2009, after deliberations of more than one year.
"The pilots' salary slips inflate with as much of flying as he does, but here we are asking for strict implementation of the agreement management signed with us. We have given 24 waiver flights to the management but they continue to be cunningly irresponsible on flight duty times and sending short-rested pilots on flights and threaten them of dire consequences, if they refuse," a spokesman of PALPA told Business Recorder.
"The pilots are the last line of defence, in technical terms. Therefore, world-wide they are governed with strict rules and are made to observe the rules, as passengers' lives depend on their one single mistake," he said.
"A human error, often referred to in case of mishaps, does not necessarily be of the pilot only; there is a chain of humans involved that could contribute to a crash, from Engineer, who checked and cleared the aircraft to fly, to the one who was in Control Tower uptil the one observing Radar.
The human factor also involves the management of the airline and the CAA," stated a former air crash investigator. He said that besides the weather and runway's surrounding conditions (no-fly zones, etc) one should also take into consideration the working environment, which gives mental stress, or relaxation, which is the most critical aspect.
The former investigator said that there had been several incidents in the world of aviation where the investigators had put the blame on management's, and aviation authorities, for not following the Air Safety Standards. "In Pakistan, we are witnessing the same debate these days".
He was of the opinion that the quarrel between the national flag carrier and its pilots, which started even before July 28, the day the AirBlue aircraft crashed, gives an ample example of importance being given to air safety by the authorities. "It is amazing that a high level official took 10 days to notice it".
PIA has accused PALPA of causing a billion rupees loss in a few days due to illegal go-slow campaign in which around 70 pilots and first officers refused to do scheduled flights, including some of the PALPA office-bearers. While refuting the management's claim, the PALPA spokesman said that the rosters for August were given to pilots only on July 31.
"As most of the pilots were abroad, they were unable to find out their flights of next week. This is just one example of ill planning. Moreover, the rosters are full of errors and fail to provide stipulated rests to pilots between flights, let alone the mandatory 10 days' off, required as per international standards. He said that senior Boeing 777 captains are doing 24-28 days' duties in a month, which is against international safety standards, PALPA-PIA working agreement and, above all, CAA's Air Navigation Order Issue 4.