Have you ever been to Ladakh, one of the most beautiful places on earth. Famous for its breathtaking beauty and deserted patches, the Pangong Lake, some 160 km from Leh, is an added attraction that pulls thousands of people every year to the place.
The place's connectivity with rest of India has always been a major issue. Due to heavy snowfall the road connectivity remains closed for almost six months. So air travel is the only viable solution. But a flight to Ladakh has never been a safe journey.
High altitude, hostile terrain and low clouds mean that a pilot cannot position himself to land by getting a visual contact of the runway of 'critical' Leh airport. But it has always been kept a secret.
Off late, the pilots have themselves revealed that 'f lights to Leh almost never meet all the safety requirements as set by the directorate general of civil aviation (DGCA) and this is one of the worst kept secrets of Indian aviation'.
According to reports , Ladakh's connectivity with rest of India could get curtailed with the union of Air India (domestic) pilots asking its members not to operate flights to Leh.
"Flights to Leh almost never meet all the safety requirements as set by the directorate general of civil aviation (DGCA) and this is one of the worst kept secrets of Indian aviation. Still all pilots risk their licences to fly there as flights are the only fast way of connecting Ladakh to the rest of India and in winters the only link with the country as highways are closed. There are instances when a sick patient has to be flown out of Leh or critical supplies are required to be flown in there," a senior pilot has said.
AI, Jet and GoAir are among the Indian carriers that fly to Leh.
The Indian Commercial Pilots' Association (ICPA) took this move after a private airline complained against AI and another airline for landing in Leh without meeting the minimum visibility conditions of this high altitude airport.
A few days ago, two private airlines and AI flights took off for Leh. AI and one private airline landed in Leh while the other private carrier chose to return to Delhi as visibility was at five km — less than the minimum required eight km.
It has been reported that the pilots of "the airline complained to the DGCA that the two other aircraft had landed there in violation of rules. The regulator's safety department summoned the four pilots (two each of AI and the private carrier) who had chosen to land there."
"That meeting turned out to be a heated one with the DGCA told that operations to Leh cannot happen in full compliance of all statutory requirements. One of the AI pilots was spoken to very harshly," said a source.
Following this, the ICPA which represents pilots of erstwhile Indian Airlines (now AI-domestic) sought a detailed clarification from DGCA on all rules regarding Leh operations.
ICPA regional secretary Shailendra Singh wrote to AI head of operations, saying: "As Leh being a critical airfield, requiring special clearance, in the interest of flight safety we are advising ICPA members not to undertake any Leh operation or training till all performance and technical anomalies regarding day to day operations are clarified in writing by your good office."
And to its members, ICPA's Singh issued a directive saying: "You are hereby directed not to undertake Leh flight/training. This is for your information and strict compliance. Unconfirmed members do not come under the purview of this directive."
(With inputs from Agencies)