Aviation official arrested in India license scam

AP News
Posted: Mar 26, 2011 8:25 AM
Aviation official arrested in India license scam

A government aviation official and three other people have been arrested in a widening investigation of corruption in awarding flying licenses to airline pilots, police said Saturday.

The four men were arrested Friday in New Delhi for their involvement with a flying school in the western Indian state of Rajasthan that had issued fake certificates for training flights flown by its students, police spokesman Rajan Bhagat said.

They include an airline pilot and an official of India's federal aviation authority, Bhagat said.

The scandal hitting India's airline sector emerged when a pilot working for a budget airline damaged an Airbus 320 aircraft while landing last month. An examination of her papers showed she had used fake documents to get her pilot license.

Investigations since then have revealed at least one unlicensed flying school, unscrupulous officials, and touts who helped underqualified candidates obtain licenses and jobs flying passenger planes for various airlines.

Among those arrested Friday was Pradeep Kumar, an assistant director of the Director General of Civil Aviation, the country's aviation watchdog, who was responsible for granting licenses to flying students, police said.

Kumar was being questioned to determine the extent of the fake licensing network, said Ashok Chand, a top police official in New Delhi.

The director general of civil aviation, E.K. Bharat Bhushan, said the records of all 40 flying schools in the country would be checked.

"We will take the strongest possible action if such malpractice becomes known," Bhushan said.

Indian authorities have arrested four airline pilots with fake certificates in the past two weeks.

On Friday, aviation authorities canceled the licenses of 15 commercial pilots for exaggerating their flying time while training. Officials have been ordered to check the documents of all Indian and foreign airline pilots working in the country.

Investigators found that students who failed final examinations or falsified their hours of flight training were able to obtain fake certificates and aviation licenses.

Since the fraud came to light, angry opposition lawmakers have accused the government of failing to check corruption in issuing pilot licenses. They have demanded that the government crack down on such fraud.

Last week, aviation authorities grounded nine pilots who were operating commercial flights despite being above the stipulated retirement age of 65.

In the last decade, air travel has boomed in India as its economy has grown, leading to the rise of a slew of private airlines and a shortage of experienced pilots.