Private airline companies have to keep civil aviation officials in good humour for many reasons. The extension of the Foreign Aircrew Temporary Authorisation (FATA) is one among them.
In August, Minister of State for Civil Aviation GM Siddeshwara informed the Rajya Sabha that Indian carriers employ a total of 277 foreign pilots. The carrier with the most foreign pilots (121) is Jet Airways.
TEHELKA has access to a trail of Jet’s internal communication in which Jennifer D’Silva, chief executive assistant to chairman Naresh Goyal, asks her colleagues in the public relations department about the promised written approval of the fata extension.
In a mail dated 1 July 2013, she wrote to Ragini (Chopra) and Vinod (Sareen).
“We were very excitedly informed that the fata extension has been given by DGCA a few months ago. We were also promised something in writing to this effect. My frequent calls and requests and reminders to Mr Vinod Sareen have been futile. Everytime I was told it would be done either 2/3 days or next week… this was approved orally, all we are asking is for a written confirmation. Can this be done please? Or do we need another meeting with concerned persons from bom and dgca on this issue?”
Sareen replied the same day:
“…I had been to DGCA on Friday June 28 and it has been told to me that the file has been sent back to moca for the necessary amendment in the language of this letter. I went to Ministry today and it has been told to me that the revised letter will be sent to the dgca for issuance of the necessary approval to Jet Airways by tomorrow.”
A week later, Sareen sent Jennifer a copy of the government order on the FATA extension to 31 December 2016 much before it was updated on the DGCA website.
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In April 2013, the National Aviators’ Guild (NAG), the association of Jet Airways pilots, had written to the then civil aviation secretary, KN Srivastava, expressing their concern about the plan to extend Jet’s FATA.
The letter, which was sent at a time when Jet was planning to hire an additional 100 foreign pilots as part of its expansion plan, pointed out that India had a glut of commercial pilot-licence holders, numbering more than 5,000.
Little did the Jet pilots know that when they were writing to Srivastava, his wife (Sadhana) was travelling free from New Delhi to Singapore on Jet’s Premiere Class. According to documents accessed by TEHELKA, Srivastava is one of the civil aviation officials who availed the most number of favours from Jet Airways.
No wonder the airlines keep the officials in good humour.