Lion Air defends pilot recruitment criteria

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Indonesian carrier Lion Air is countering European reservations over its crew experience levels, insisting that it demands more than the regulatory minimum when recruiting pilots.

The European Commission had identified pilot experience as a source of concern at Lion Air, after the carrier gave a presentation in June to the air safety committee, ahead of a revision of its blacklist.

But Lion Air says the Commission's "condensed" synopsis of the presentation is misleading because it leaves out "important information".

While Lion Air was asked to confirm that the airline meets minimum requirements set by Indonesia's regulator, the DGCA, the carrier says its representative told the air safety committee that it exceeds them.

The DGCA demands that first officers recruited from overseas need to have logged at least 250h on type.

But Lion Air says foreign first officers must have "more than 250 flight hours" on type, and claims the European Commission's interpretation - that it "did not demand additional experience", beyond minimum licensing, is "incorrect".

It also says it requires trainee first officers, which it recruits from Indonesia, to have 100-150h with an experienced line-training captain before being accepted as a full first officer - above the 75h threshold which, it says, is set by the DGCA.

First officers moving up to captaincy must have logged at least 3,500-4,000h on the same type, the airline adds, even though the DGCA has "no set minimum" for command beyond the 1,500h established for granting of an air transport pilot's licence.

Lion Air says there is a surplus of commercial pilots in Europe and North America and that it receives "many more" applicants than positions available.

"This means we only accept the most highly experienced and skilled pilots," says the airline. "The standards that we set at Lion Air exceed the minimum required by licensing organisations such as Indonesia's DGCA."

While a few Indonesian carriers have been removed from the European blacklist, following a blanket restriction imposed on all the country's airlines, Lion Air is still among those covered by the sanction.