Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Fake license scam: Senior DGCA official stripped of responsibility


New Delhi, Apr 19:

After days of dithering in taking action against officials involved in the fake pilot licence scam, the government today finally acted on its promise and stripped its controversial Joint Director (Air Safety) R S Passi of his post.

However, Mr Passi, until now Joint Director (Air Safety), Northern Region will continue to be at the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), according to senior officials.

"Mr. Passi has been taken off his responsibilities as Joint Director (Air Safety), but has not been sacked," said officials, adding, "he has just been removed from his post in the Air Safety Directorate." Explaining that this "development", finalised nearly three days back, was an internal arrangement and not fallout of the ongoing controversy, officials said, Mr. Passi continues to be with the aviation regulator DGCA but has not been allotted any new assignment.

Though no reason has been given for his removal, sources said the recent controversy where his daughter, working with a private airline, was found to be having a fake pilot licence, was the immediate trigger.

She was sacked after screening of pilot licences, in the wake of the fake licence scam which put the spotlight on the DGCA itself, led to this sensational discovery.

Despite having failed a flight test at an aviation academy in the United States, Mr Passi's daughter had managed to get a job with a private domestic airline here allegedly due to her father's influence.

Sources added that the removal of the high-profile official had been keenly anticipated, especially after his daughter was forced to resign from Spicejet Airlines last month, and the Ministry of Civil Aviation was under pressure from various quarters over "taking some action" against officials responsible for turning a blind eye to the fake pilot licence issue.

So far, 13 FIRs - six related to Airline Transport Pilots Licenses (ATPLs) and seven concerning records of Commercial Pilot Licences (CPLs), have been filed by the DGCA after scanning over 4,000 of the nearly 14,000 licences (4,000 ATPLs and 10,000 CPLs) issued till date.

Presently, three teams of DGCA officials, assisted by experts, are scrutinising record books of air traffic controllers, who keep a track of pilots' flying hours, and nearly 40 flying institutes as part of their auditing process following the scandal.

Flying academies are also being scanned for their 'intake-output' records on fuel consumption, period of time spent by trainees, number of staff and infrastructure, besides other expenses to tally it with the 'on-record' jottings done to create pilots' log sheets of flying hours - a process that authenticates one's licence.

Yesterday, Civil Aviation Minister Vayalar Ravi had threatened to close down any institution involved in churning out fake pilot licences, saying, "Such fake institutions must be closed at the earliest. We cannot encourage such institutions."


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