Air Asia India flying beast (Gaurav Taneja) case

Major news this week in aviation circle is Air Asia India’s termination of a pilot. While most pilot terminations go without notice, this time the terminated pilot happens to be a youtube star, so he could put out his version of the story online and cause some major PR issue for the airline, at least on twitter momentarily.
Captain Gaurav Taneja (Flying beast on twitter) has made 3 major allegations
  • -          Not granting enough leaves
  • -          Forcing 98% Flap 3 landings which save 8 kg fuel but are more difficult and risky
  • -          Violation of safety norms
  • -          Asking him to take down a private video
You can watch Gaurav's video here or watch below. Gaurav has 3 million youtube subscribers and 2.4 lakh twitter followers so he carries lots of clout online.

Below is my personal assessment of the situation, with one sided info I have from Gaurav's video and without any official response from airline.

Leave policy- this is always debatable-employees want maximum leaves while employers want the exact opposite. It is hard to say who is right and who is wrong. But whatever policy promised during recruitment should be followed. Pilots need rest and a stress free environment-this is non negotiable. Right now with every airline having more staff and less flights, a more liberal leave policy will help everyone. In his video Gaurav says if he avails sick leave airline was cancelling his next weekly off or planned leaves. May be from airline’s point of you “If you’re sick and have rested you don’t need another weekly off after 2 days and should fly”.  Looks unfair to me but airline will have its compulsions like shortage of pilots so this is best resolved with a mutual discussion in my opinion.

Flap 3 Landing vs Full Flap landing.
Flaps are metalic extensions hidden under the wings during the flight and are extended to various positions as needed during take off and landing, to provide extra lift. If you are sitting close to wings you can see them roll in after take off and extend just before landing.

Extending flap to max gives aircraft more lift and facilitates slower and smoother landing. But consumes more fuel. Flap 3 is slightly less extension, so less lift, less drag and less fuel consumption. As per Gurav Taneja Air Asia India expects its pilots to land Flap 3 98% of the time. Each flap 3 landing saves about 8 kg of fuel (ATF costs about 40000 INR per 1000 litre, so 8 litre is roughly INR 300-500, small amount compared to 4-6 lakhs passengers would have paid (say 120-150 passengers paying 3000-5000 Rs each) compared to full flap landing. From airline's point of view tiny drops make mighty ocean. But Flap 3 landings are difficult/risky at short runways, tabletop runways or in terrains where there’s very little buffer for plan B. Gaurav says he managed 7 flap-3 landings but 3 were full flap landings- 2 in Imphal (Manipur) and 1 in Bagdogra (WB)-bringing his score down to 71% from target of 98%- for this he was given memo. Prima-facie Gaurav’s argument seems fair to me. We don’t know Airline’s version of the story so let us hold the judgment.
Flap position dashboard display indicative image from http://www.opencockpits.com/

Violation of safety norms:
Apart from 98% flap 3 landing rule Gaurav hasn’t elaborated on other non-compliance. We don’t have enough info in public domain to discuss this further. Saw another tweet that another senior person (Amit Singh- tweet here)  resigned refusing to compromise on safety. On this aspect we’ll have to wait till more things come to light.

Private videos:
Gaurav’s private vlog in which he feared loss of his job, without any direct mention of his employer was probably final straw. Corporates don’t like their employees going public- it is unnecessarily bad PR. We see this all the time- an IBM Employee had to quit after IIPM came down heavily on him for criticizing the institution. Hundreds of people loss jobs because of their social media statements that offend someone somewhere. Right now airlines just need an excuse to fire people, so these incidents just added up and made a strong case against the Flying Beast.

Is Air Asia India wrong in firing?
It is lot easier to say they are wrong and they should take it back. Right now situation in Airline Industry is very volatile-GoAir has terminated many pilots, Spicejet is struggling to pay salaries, Air Asia group is also cutting jobs. Airlines just need an excuse to fire people now. Same with other corporate- big corporate cut 1000s of jobs overnight to conserve cash- because those individual employees are not popular online their voice goes unnoticed. Once relationship is strained it is very hard to patch up. Even if the sacked captain is restored due to public pressure or govt order, company can find some other reason, even stronger one and terminate later. I think it is best to separate with mutual respect.

How is Air Asia’s safety record?
Air Asia India hasn’t had any major accident since its inception. In fact last major crash in India was the Mangaluru incident of Air India Express 10 years ago. Since then there have not been any major accident (involving loss of entire aeroplane and hundreds of passengers). To that extent DGCA, Airlines, pilots, maintenance departments and all stakeholders should be given credit.
Air Asia Indonesia had a full body loss over Java sea. Other than that even Air Asia Group didn’t have any accident over the years. If there were major violations there would have been more incidents for sure. May be everyone just got lucky all the time or the calculated risks have been paying off for the airline- hard to tell. Till a former investigation completes, let us hope deviations/violations if any were minor.

So airlines in India are putting public safety at risk?
The answer is tricky. Life is always about calculated risks.  Think of your car or bike tyres- they are rated to last about 4-5 years, 30000-40000 kms. It is definitely safer to keep changing them every year or every 10000 kms, but that comes with a cost, so most of us prefer to use the tyres as long as we can, or as long as we feel safe. Same with airline industry. No one wants their planes to crash-that is too much bad publicity, lost revenue, reputation and money. There are hundreds of rules and regulations- I believe some airlines will find workaround to bypass some of these regulations which they think is unnecessary or unreasonably expensive. Quantum and severity of these violations will be known only after detailed investigation, which DGCA has initiated as per news. We will know if they were life threatening or minor. Airlines world over face regulatory action all the time- a game of who gets under carpet and who gets under Rangoli!.

Will people stop flying Air Asia India now?
Unlikely. Indian are driven by fares and those who offer low fares will get enough passengers. There is always someone to grab those seats even if a few decide not to.

An year ago when an Indigo employee was in news for beating passengers so many people said they will never fly Indigo again, after Kunal Kamra incident also many pledged to boycott Indigo- Is Indigo bankrupt now? No.  All airlines in India have one issue or another, so flying public in India have limited options. Very small % of flying public make their decisions based on temporary twitter trends. This AirAsia India incident also will soon be forgotten and next AirAsia Big sale people will rush to book (assuming Corona is in control by then)

Not every employee/individual will have the courage to speak out- Many suffer in silence. Gaurav has spoken out and taken a stand. Best wishes to him.
Gaurav Taneja: Twitter handle: https://twitter.com/flyingbeast320

We'll have to see if AirAsia responds or DGCA makes its audit public or Flying beast's social media outcry will have any impact on Air Asia India management.

4 comments:

  1. I smell honesty in Gaurav's appeal. Whistleblowers are always suppressed, nothing new here. At the end, money matters, with political clout and money in hand,Air Asia ll definitely win this case! And it must, in India, I have witnessed many such cases. Best Wishes though!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. OK. Let us see how this pans out. I see many industry veterans saying the path he took is not professional.

      Delete
  2. Air Asia is a popular airline company in Asia. For Air Asia India flying beast (Gaurav Taneja) case they lost there potion. What you think about that?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I saw DGCA suspended two AA officials. Let us see what else comes out. I don't have any personal opinion/bias. Just observing from distance.

      Delete

Powered by Blogger.