DGCA backs pilots for aborting flight due to bad weather

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has decided not to take punitive action against pilots who abort the flight and carryout safe forced landing due to deteriorating weather, provided such landings are informed to the regulator as soon as they take place.

The move comes against the backdrop of a realisation that some of the recent accidents took place due to pressure on pilots to complete the journey despite inclement weather.
"The pilots should not hesitate to divert or to abort the mission as and when they meet with such bad weather conditions en route. Such an action is desirable in the interest of safety of occupants on board the helicopter," it said.

There were incidents of pilots flying choppers in inclement conditions, including one involving Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi when the helicopter landed after sunset.

Earlier, the DGCA  said four chopper accidents killing 20 people during rescue operations in June in Uttarakhand could have been avoided if pilots had proper hill training and helicopters were not used beyond its capacity.

In a circular issued this month, the DGCA said there have been accidents in the recent past in which the crew was negotiating bad weather en route and failed to take timely action either to divert or to land immediately at a suitable place to avoid bad weather conditions. “Some of these accidents have taken place when the pilots were under pressure to complete the mission despite bad weather. This has resulted in fatality of people on board the helicopter and destruction of the machines," it said.

The DGCA said it is aware that weather in the hilly areas changes quickly and weather information is seldom available from the Met offices.

"In the afternoon, the air becomes turbulent and pilots are required to be familiar with sudden down draft or updraft due to turbulence and should maintain adequate height margins from the terrain," it added.

In case the bad weather condition is encountered nearer to the vicinity of the airfield beyond the watch hours, crew should make all efforts to land inside the airfield for safe helicopter operations, it said.

Earlier this year, the DGCA had issued fresh guidelines for helicopter operations to pilgrim centres and tourist destinations, which included doctors at helipads to check whether pilots are drunk, a strict no to overloading of passengers and arranging for prior information about the weather.

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