Andrew Doyle/LONDON

AN AIRBUS INDUSTRIE pilot team is attempting to improve the utilisation rate of Indian Airlines' A320 fleet.

The team, which consists of Airbus training captains and airline check-pilots, has been dispatched to the airline in an effort to help it overcome a shortage of captains resulting in monthly aircraft use falling to as low as 35h/aircraft.

The programme is aimed at producing 30 new A320 captains by the end of the year, which the airline hopes will enable it to push utilisation above 75h/month.

The carrier operates a fleet of 30 A320s, powered by the International Aero Engines V2500.

"The command potential among the young co-pilots is considered excellent by the check-captain team," says Airbus. "Eight co-pilots have already passed a new command-preparation course- five candidates have successfully completed the 50-sector minimum of line experience under the supervision of Airbus check-captains."

The problem has been caused by a significant number of pilots leaving Indian Airlines for higher-paid jobs with other carriers. This has resulted in the airline's management signing an agreement with unions providing for a 40% wage increase for pilots.

The airline claims, that it now pays higher wages, than do private carriers in India adding that "-pilots are in fact returning". It expects to overcome the shortage of captains by September.

Airbus says that its "line-assistance programme" also includes a review of Indian's dispatch and operations control systems, a route analysis and an aircraft-performance evaluation. The project is due to continue to the end of the year, followed by further visits during 1997. The assistance is "-part of a major effort-to extend flight-operation services to customer airlines, beyond the traditional requirements of formal training on its aircraft", says Airbus.

The check-captains have been seconded from other A320 operators, and are supported by Airbus training captains.

Shortly after the type was introduced in June 1989, Indian Airlines grounded its A320 fleet following the loss of an aircraft at Bangalore in February 1990, which highlighted inadequacies in the carrier's training procedures.

Indian Airlines is completing the sale of its remaining two of six Boeing 737-200s .The carrier has been attempting to sell the aircraft since 1993. The two 737s have been offered to Pacific Aviation Holdings, which has bid over $7 million for the purchase.

Source: Flight International