KARACHI: After the crash of Airbus A321, the debate on the retiring age and medical fitness of pilots has gained momentum.
The 62-year old pilot of the Air Blue flight, Pervaiz Iqbal Chaudhry, had three more years to reach the retirement age set by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
CAA, as the prime regulator of airlines in the country, is responsible for the medical fitness of pilots, especially the senior ones. “CAA is ready to accept responsibility if anything in the investigations prove that it was the association’s fault ,” Deputy DG CAA Air Vice Marshal (r) Riaz ul Haq said when asked about the medical fitness of senior pilots. “CAA does strict medical scrutiny of pilots as they turn 60. Safety is our priority,” he said.
President of the Pakistan Air line Pilots’ Association (Palpa) Sohail Baluch said that the retirement age for pilots should be 60 years. “The reflex action of pilots deteriorates after 60 and considering the importance of safety, no pilot should be allowed to fly after the age of 60,” Baluch said.
Meanwhile, Palpa, which has been at loggerheads with the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) over flying safety standard, said that PIA neglects international safety rules and force pilots to fly 17-hours, well over the 10-hour limit. This is in violation of the agreement signed by both parties.
However, Deputy DG CAA said that it is unfair to say that pilots are being pressurised to fly continuously for 17 hours. He said that such situations occur rarely.
CAA needs to be more vigilant in scrutinising pilots, he said, adding that we need to induct new trained pilots instead of increasing the retirement age.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 30th, 2010.
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