Cockpit fraud: fears grow over India’s fake pilots

NEW DELHI, March 24, 2011 (AFP) – India’s fake pilot scandal began unravelling when a female captain landed her packed airliner on the nose instead of the rear wheels as she touched down in the holiday hotspot of Goa. Parminder Kaur Gulati, flying for the fastest-growing airline in the booming Indian sector, IndiGo, was investigated for the dangerous error in January and was found with falsified qualifications. She has since been fired and arrested.

The case set alarm bells ringing for passengers, anxious about the idea of a semi-trained fraud being responsible for their lives, and for airline bosses, who have been hiring crew at a furious pace in recent years.

It also cast a spotlight on a familiar problem in India, where corruption is widely seen as on the rise: most things, even qualifications for highly skilled jobs, can be bought at a price.

“It’s as bad as doctors or surgeons who fake their certificates and put people’s lives at risk,” says Baijayant Panda, a member of parliament from the eastern state of Orissa.

“But it’s not limited to aviation in India. In many fields, you have a lot of fakery going on,” the lawmaker, seen as part of a new breed of young Indian politicians, told a deb