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Pilots, cabin crew found drunk could be suspended for 3 years

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation measures require separate records of pre-flight and postflight breath analyser tests for the crew.

Several pilots of commercial airlines have tested positive for alcohol in breath analyser tests before boarding a flight in the past. Several pilots of commercial airlines have tested positive for alcohol in breath analyser tests before boarding a flight in the past.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has cracked down on alcohol consumption by pilots and cabin crew with the introduction of a strict reporting system and more stringent punitive measures for those testing positive in breath analyser tests.

The measures require airlines to maintain separate records of pre-flight and post-flight breath analyser examination for the flight crew as well as keeping them off the roster for three months in case of violations. In the case of a repeat offence the suspension goes up to three years.

The DGCA issued a directive this week, titled 'Procedure for medical examination of aircraft personnel for alcohol consumption' stating that the airline should preserve all breath analyser examination records for a period of one year.

The order states that the operator shall maintain separate records of pre-flight and post-flight breath analyser examination for the flight crew, cabin crew and maintenance personnel. With regard to pre-flight breath analyser examination, if a crew member tests positive for alcohol consumption and refuses to undergo the test for a second time that individual would be kept off flying duty for three months.

Besides, the individual's licence would stand suspended for that period. According to DGCA, if it is a case of repeat violation, the crew member would be suspended for three years.

In case, a crew member tests positive for alcohol consumption post-flight, then that person would have to immediately surrender his or her licence.

An Instructor/Examiner/Check Pilot/Check Cabin Crew detected positive for alcohol consumption during post-flight breath-analyser examination, will lose such ratings/authorisation for a period of three years, the circular noted.

Information about action taken on positive tests and post-flight medical examination of crew members have to be submitted every month by the flight operator to the Director of Air Safety (HQ). "Whenever a designated VIP is to be carried on board a flight, the operator shall ensure pre-flight breath-analyser examination of the crew members assigned to operate such flight", the circular said.

The DGCA order also states that in the event of a plane accident at an airport or near its vicinity, the officer-in-charge of that particular airport should ensure that crew members are immediately subjected to medical check-up for consumption of alcohol.

"The level of blood alcohol compatible with safe flying is zero", the directive states. Aviation expert Jeetendra Bhargava said , "The DGCA decision is a welcome step and will serve as a deterrent for pilots and cabin crew who may have been casual on the issue in the past and put flight safety at a risk."

"These stringent steps should have been taken long ago as pilots of airlines such as Jet Airways and Air India have tested positive for alcohol in breath analyser tests before boarding a flight", he added. Bhargava said that the mandatory reporting of positive tests for alcohol consumption in both pre-flight and post-flight situations was very much required as airlines have tended to shield their pilots on the issue. Now that it has been made mandatory for airline managements to report the cases to DGCA, this will serve as a much needed deterrent.

"We cannot take an even 0.1 per cent risk as far as flight safety is concerned", he added. "The stricter rules will curb some pilots or cabin crew who think a small peg or two doesn't matter as there is a higher chance of getting caught and the punishment has become more serious", Bhargava pointed out.