UnNews:India cracks down on fake pilot licenses

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26 March 2011

Ten Soles (crop)

A newly licensed Indian pilot approaches the international airport in Calcutta.

NEW DELHI, India -- India has arrested four people, including an official of the nation's aviation agency, for corruption in the granting of pilot's licenses. The four were arrested here for their involvement in a flying school that issued fake certificates for training flights.

Last month, a pilot for a budget airline damaged an Airbus A320 aircraft. She parked it not at the gate but in the short-term lot, whose low ceiling was her undoing. A check of her papers began the scandal, and made the 9-year-old pilot burst into tears. When officials demanded the flight log, she could only produce a Hello Kitty diary.

Police arrested Pradeep Kumar, an assistant director of the country's aviation watchdog agency and the owner of a very well-reviewed Indian buffet restaurant, alleging that he licensed students of the flying school even if they failed their exams or falsified their flying hours. "Experience is the main teacher," Kumar said, "they either fly the plane or they die. Most of them get the hang of it pretty quick, let me tell you. Would you like the garlic nan today?"

Air travel has boomed as India's economy has grown, resulting in a shortage of pilots. The country has seen an epidemic of people moving from call centers to the cockpit. Unfortunately, control towers can understand their English no better than the unsuspecting owners of Windows computers were able to previously.

In the United States, youngsters are not allowed to captain airliners. They are restricted to minor tasks such as talking into the microphone at the control tower when the air-traffic controller goes to sleep.

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