Drunk pilots have become a real menace these days. The most recent case is of the government-owned airline, Air India, as Captain Arvind Kathpalia who happens to be the director of operations at Air India, reportedly failed his mandatory breathalyzer test. During the test, it was also revealed that he had an unacceptable alcohol percentage in his blood.
The reports that came out suggested that the tests were conducted few moments before Arvind Kathpalia was scheduled to take charge of AI-111 a Boeing 787 Dreamliner between New Delhi and London. Soon after the reports surfaced, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) ordered a probe into the matter.
As per reports, Arvind Kathpalia was to command an Air India flight on November 11 at 2:45 pm. After being tested positive, the DGCA directives banned Arvind Kathpalia for 3 years from flying commercial flights. As per the rules of the aircraft, the crew members are prohibited from consuming alcohol 12 hours prior to the flight. The airline further mandates them to undergo alcohol test before and after every flight. The rules also specifies that any crew member who tests positive in the pre-flight medical check or refuses to take a breathalyzer test is required to be taken off flying duty and his or her license is suspended for three months. Furthermore, in case of a repeat offence, the license of the crew member is suspended for three years.
Data from the ministry revealed that in many cases pilots were found to be repeat offenders. A total of 112 pilots tested positive for the first time and the privileges of their pilot’s license were suspended for three months. Similarly, 15 pilots tested positive for the second time and the privileges of their license were suspended for three years. One pilot tested positive for the third time and his pilot’s license was cancelled.
This is not the first time that Kathpalia has failed the test, in 2017 he was grounded for three months after alcohol was found in his bloodstream.
Also, don’t think that this is a rare case, in the last eight years, 58 pilots of Air India have been caught drunk, right before they had to fly from various airports in the country, 10 of which accounted to this year itself !
Though the airlines have said to take prohibitive action according to the rules, it has hardly had any difference. Over the years, the number of such cases have only gone up. In 2010, just one pilot was caught drunk, at Mumbai’s airport, while the number stands at 10 for 2018 with two months still to go.
The worst year was 2016 when 16 pilots were caught drunk right before flights were to depart.
So, if you think that is an issue only with Air India crew members, then you are mistaken, as there were more than 130 instances of pilots being found drunk before flying aircraft at various airports in the country. According to information from the Ministry of Civil Aviation, 132 pilots were found drunk during the last three years during the pre-flight medical examination. While 43 pilots were found drunk in 2015, the next year saw 44 such cases and the year 2017 witnessed 45 such instances.
We can only hope that all airlines seriously get a strict punitive framework in place, so the pilots are not high before they fly.