The Directorate General of Civil Aviation has refused to validate the licenses of about 25 foreign pilots operating in India, owing to their failure in English proficiency.
While there were approximately 560 foreign pilots presently operating in India, between 20 and 25 were "sent back" during a period of one year, DGCA chief Kanu Gohain said on the sidelines of a conference on aviation safety.
Observing that proficiency in English was a major requirement as it was the globally-used aviation language, he said the process of validation of foreign pilot certificates involved an oral examination of their knowledge of the air regulations, the operational procedures adopted by the airline that has recruited them and English.
Gohain said most of the pilots whose licenses were not validated for Indian operations belonged to countries of the CIS (Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine), Eastern Europe and Indonesia.
The foreign pilots were being employed by Indian carriers to overcome the shortage of Indian pilots, though several of them were now into recruiting newcomers but only as co-pilots, he said.
Commenting on the growing strain on the Air Traffic Control, Gohain said while the ATC infrastructure was being upgraded, a large number of fresh personnel have been recruited and were currently undergoing training.
Referring to the "explosive growth" in the Indian aviation scenario, the DGCA chief said the aviation regulator body has recently introduced a voluntary reporting system to expand the coverage of incidents or near-misses by the crew members.
Asked about the recent safety airport audit conducted by the International Civil Aviation Organisation, Gohain said India has topped the list of 189 nations in complying with the ICAO standards by achieving 98 per cent success.
The ICAO has initiated a formal process whereby all signatories would, by March 2008, complete testing of all pilots and air traffic controllers and adopt standards for proficiency in English.
Lack of proficiency has been a cause of some major accidents including the Charkhi-Dadri mid-air collision and a 1977 accident in the Canary islands involving two aircraft.
Gohain said sustaining the growth and maintaining stringent safety standards was a collective efforts and said penal action was being taken against aviation operators who violated the safety norms.
Addressing the conference organised by the Federation of Indian Pilots, foreign aviation experts said the number of air accidents and fatalities had gone down considerably over the years, giving official statistics to buttress their arguments.
Jim Burin of the US-based Flight Safety Foundation and Capt Gary Hudson of Boeing maintained a "steady decline" in accidents since the 1960s and spoke about emerging technologies which were cutting down human error.