In November 2011 Indian Civil Aviation authorities disclosed a highly disturbing fact – approx. 40 local flight schools were operating with a “blatant disregard” for norms and regulations. Unfortunately, this situation only proves an unsettling trend – the global aviation expansion, burdened by the shortage of highly qualified pilots, has triggered an increase in flight crew members with insufficient knowledge and experience or even counterfeit licenses.
According to Boeing, based on the anticipated general growth in the aviation industry, airlines worldwide will have to recruit more than 450 000 extra pilots during the next 20 years. The largest demand is expected in the rapidly expanding aviation markets in the Asian-Pacific, Latin American, the CIS and other emerging regions. ‘Unfortunately, what we see today is an insufficient number of pilot training organizations in these regions. Moreover, the currently existing flight schools cannot and, most probably, will not be able to handle the rocketing demands,‘ comments the CEO of AviationCV.com Skaiste Knyzaite. For that reason some countries today face the problem of ‘fake’ pilots, who forge their documents and thus illegally operate commercial aircraft.
In 2011 two officials from the Indian Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) were arrested and charged with Commercial Pilot License (CPL) fraud. The Indian authorities accused the DGCA officials of helping pilots with fake documents to obtain the CPL. A total of 13 people were arrested under the suspicion of being related to the case. Another CPL fraud case was registered in Vietnam, where the Vietnam Airlines co-pilot had managed to land the aircraft only from a third attempt. The investigation conducted by the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV) revealed that the pilot had actually forged his documentation by stating the experience of 680 flight hours on A320/321, when in reality he had never flown on an actual A320 aircraft.
‘However, the problem extends much further than the black market in the emerging regions. Some local flight schools simply lack sufficient financial backup from their sponsors or the government. In order to survive these organizations are forced to cut back on the necessary expenditure, particularly by shortening actual flight hours, though de jure students still get the required time of practice,’ says Skaiste Knyzaite.
Though the authorities are in a constant struggle with underqualified or ‘fake’ pilots, still the majority of thorough inspections are conducted only after tragic accidents, e.g. the tragic crash of the Yak-42 in Russia, claiming the lives of all the ice hockey team ‘Lokomotiv’ players. The aftermath of the accident – almost 80 pilot diploma cancelations due to the insufficient number of actual flight hours gained by the students in training.
‘The situation may soon become critical if air carriers fail to improve their recruitment processes. Thorough procedures may require extensive human resources and additional investments. Naturally, it may prove a real challenge for smaller, less financially secure carriers. However, they may opt to turn to one or more of the international recruitment agencies which have the means and the experience to conduct a thorough pilot’s background check. They ought to look for solutions not only in their own interest but also for the sake of passenger safety,’ concluded Skaiste Knyzaite.