As many as 66% of pilots in India admitted to dozing off during flight operations, without planning or consent of the other crew members, according to a survey by Safety Matters Foundation.
While 54.2% pilots have suffered from severe excessive daytime sleepiness, 41.4% pilots have faced moderate daytime sleepiness, shows the survey of 542 pilots.
The development comes at a time when the domestic aviation sector is facing a dearth of pilots. In February this year, V K Singh, the minister of state for civil aviation, informed the parliament that despite an annual requirement of 1,000 pilots in the country, the domestic supply of pilots currently stands at 200 to 300 pilots. In 2020, Hardeep Singh Puri, the former minister of aviation said that the domestic aviation sector has a requirement of 9,488 pilots in the next five years.
Notably, 73% of surveyed pilots have attributed fatigue as the major reason for falling asleep, whereas 43% of pilots have said that they are usually fatigued for the next flight. Owing to the erratic flight schedules, 50% of shift workers have admitted to not sleeping on the day before the first night shift, leading to an increased level of fatigue and performance impairment. Of the surveyed pilots, 97% have stated lack of efforts by DGCA for fatigue management, whereas 69% pilots have said that the airlines are not training the pilots and crew members for fatigue management.
On September 12, the Indian Commercial Pilots' Association (ICPA) had written to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation to formulate new regulations for fatigue management. ICPA is an association of pilots of Air India's narrow-body aircraft. The organisation has urged the aviation regulator to scrap the current regulations of fatigue management, as they "violate all the scientific principles and operational knowledge and experience promulgated in various ICAO SARPS." ICAO refers to the International Civil Aviation Organization, whereas SARPS is Standards and Recommended Practices.
Earlier this month, the aviation regulator issued draft rules for air traffic controller (ATC) staff. As per the new rules, the controller's night shift will start at 1:30 am and end at 5:29 am with no rostered shifts between midnight and 6:00 am. Like pilots, the domestic aviation sector is also witnessing an acute shortage of ground staff. According to a survey by TeamLease, the domestic aviation sector currently has a deficit of as many as 15,800 employees for ground operations and 1,350 cabin crew staff.