6 pilots were suspended by The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Tuesday, who had been reported running low on fuel while landing in Kolkata last Wednesday. Suspended pilots included two each from IndiGo, SpiceJet and Air India. The matter of fact was that, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee was on board the IndiGo Patna-Kolkata flight and the Air India and SpiceJet planes which were ahead of her aircraft in landing sequence. Banerjee’s party had turned the issue of fuel shortage and alleged denial of emergency landing into a political controversy.
The regulatory action was a ‘strict’ warning to airlines not to cut corners on fuel, especially in the winter season when visibility keeps getting hit and planes have to divert from their scheduled destinations. An Air India spokesperson said that the DGCA has de-rostered (meaning grounded) the pilots and sought their corrective training.
SpiceJet has also confirmed the move, while IndiGo referred to a statement issued last week saying “pilots operating this flight have been made available for any inquiry by the regulator”. However, the airlines are unhappy with the move and they said that their pilots had reported running low on “hovering fuel” for Kolkata, which meant that fuel level of the Airbus A-320 of Indi-Go and AI and the Boeing 737 of SpiceJet was reaching a point where they would have had to proceed to the alternative airport that was Bhubaneswar.
According to IndiGo, the confusion had arisen due to a communication gap between its pilots and the Kolkata air traffic control (ATC).