Air operations to Kabul safe, will continue: Air India

Hyderabad, March 4 (IANS) Flight operations to Afghanistan are safe and will continue, Air India said Thursday after its pilots’ association sent a letter to the national carrier seeking discontinuation of air services to the troubled region citing security concerns.

Talking to reporters on the sidelines of India Aviation 2010 here, Air India chief Arvind Jadhav said that the airline had received the letter from the pilots and he would look into the issue.

‘We have cordial relations with Afghanistan. There is no point in taking up this issue. We will ourselves not fly if it is unsafe,’ he said when asked to comment on the letter.

‘Afghanistan is our friend and it (operating flights) involves national prestige,’ said Jadhav, who is the chairman and managing director of National Aviation Company Ltd (Nacil), which operates Air India.

Jadhav however said that the security concerns of the pilots would be addressed.

The Indian Commercial Pilots’ Association (ICPA) – a union of pilots belonging to Air India – had written to Nacil saying operating conditions in Afghanistan were unsafe. It asked its members not to operate in such conditions.

The letter came after the Feb 26 terror attack on Indians in Kabul. Seven Indians were killed in the attack.

The letter added that there were no standard operating procedures laid down so that the flight crew could respond effectively in a hijack situation, even after the incident in Kandahar where Air India flight IC-814 from Kathmandu to Delhi was taken hostage.

The ICPA also complained about the poor management of air traffic at Kabul and absence of norms for operating flights in low-visibility conditions.

‘The points raised by the ICPA in regard to operations to Kabul are not tenable. All procedures and safety requirements laid down by the DGCA are being complied with for the said operations. As such Air India has been operating safely to Kabul for many years without any untoward incidents and safety violations,’ said a company statement.

‘It is also true that many other airlines are also operating to Kabul safely with similar type of aircraft (Category-C) for many years,’ the statement added.

Air India is the only carrier that flies from the country to Afghanistan and operates six-times-a-week flights between New Delhi and Kabul.

The chief of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) Nasim Zaidi said his office had not received any request from the pilots regarding operating conditions but would look into the matter.

‘I have not received anything so far from the pilots’ association,’ said Zaidi, but added: ‘We will try to address their concerns whenever such a request comes to us.’

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