It is not exactly the fear of flying. But with the Indian Air Force (IAF) losing its men and machines in all too frequent crashes, the top brass at air headquarters have—in a curious mix-up of priorities—decided that the services of soft-skill management trainers would help pilots cope with stress. According to a senior officer, flying from peace-time stations too has become an ordeal and the reports of accidents due to technical failure has not helped the morale of the flyers. A Delhi-based management consultancy, which has worked with the police and the BSF in Kashmir, has been chosen for the project. The programme chalked out for pilots has been okayed by air HQ and once the defence ministry shows the green light, it will be implemented. As a first step, the trainers will live with the pilots and orient themselves with the work atmosphere before fine-tuning the programme. This is exactly the same methodology being employed in the stress management and personnel-effectiveness programme for the bsf jawans deployed in J&K and along the Indo-Pak border in Rajasthan. If all goes well, the training sessions for the pilots should begin in three months.
But will stress management alone do? Though senior iaf officers have vouched that the MiGs in the fleet are safe, questions have been raised about the maintenance of these fighter aircraft. Paucity of genuine spares is one reason the frequent crashes have been attributed to. In which case, it’s the machine and not the pilot which needs to be fine-tuned.