In conversation with Capt. Arun Nair, Chief Pilot Training and Standards, AirAsia India

This could well be the last winter for AirAsia India – the airline which is all set to be 100% owned by the TATA group, could well be the first one which will get integrated in the larger Air India structure – if news reports are to be believed.

This website asked some questions to Capt. Arun Nair – Chief Pilot Training and Standards of AirAsia India.

With winter round the corner, my questions were based on the preparedness for winter. Few years ago, the only airport in India which had Cat III B ILS (Instrument Landing System) was Delhi. Subsequently, the infrastructure upgrades have meant that more airports in the country have relevant ILS in place to handle the weather, leading to lesser diversions and longer operating window.

Capt. Arun Nair

1. How many aircraft of AirAsia India is Cat III B enabled?  

All aircraft presently in operation in AirAsia India is Cat 3B capable. 

2.  What percentage of pilots of AirAsia India is Cat III B trained? 

62% of all pilots are Cat III B qualified. 

3.  Do you have an in-house team of weather experts? 

While there is no inhouse team of weather experts, we have Flight dispatchers who are qualified to monitor the weather trend and call for ‘fog meetings’ to discuss likely schedule disruption and its impact. These meetings in the winter months are both scheduled and unscheduled depending on the weather. 

4. How much of a decision making is data base?

The aforesaid meetings use extensive data of traffic delays seen and weather predictions using TAFs and METARs.

5. Many times, the weather is not clear at the time of take-off but there is some certainty that by the time of landing weather would clear up. What is the thought from the captain’s perspective at such times?

Captain of an aircraft estimates the certainty of the landing weather using the ‘trend forecast’  appended to a METAR (weather report) apart from analysing the TAF (terminal aerodrome forecast weather report). This is often done in consultation with the Operation Control Centre, which has a broader picture of the flight schedules. 

6.  How does one focus on having additional fuel onboard for such times?  

Fuel in such cases is planned considering two alternative diversion options with fuel calculated for the furthest geographical diversion being considered. ‘Holding fuel’ is also catered to absorb some delay in landing at the destination airport.  

7. What training is imparted for high winds/crosswinds/fog landings and how many hours on the simulator are needed for this?  

Such training is carried out as part of a pilot’s initial training and subsequently every 6 months. A check of this is also conducted on the simulator every 6 months for all qualified   pilots. 

8. Winter is a time for disruptions, no airline wants to cancel flights – how are the pilots prepared for this?  

Roster planning caters to an adequate number of ‘standby pilots’ during the winter season who are suitability qualified. Disruptions take into consideration a pilot’s FDTL (Flight Duty Time Limit) and replacement crew is provided as and when found necessary. 

9. From a crew perspective, passengers are always uneasy with delays or cancellations. Tempers fly high when there are delays, how is the crew trained to handle this?  

Frustration and anger stem from a lack of understanding of the weather-imposed restriction on flying by the traveling public. Passengers are addressed by the captain informing them about the extent of the delay and the underlying safety consideration because of which he has chosen to accept such delays. Assuring the passengers of their safety is the key here. Standard announcements covering all aspects of such delays are complied with, by all pilots. 

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