Whether or not the pilot is over the alcohol limit is the last thing you probably want to think about when you board a plane. 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.
The scary data has been revealed by the state-run carrier itself, in response to a Right to Information (RTI) question filed by India Today TV. Delhi and Mumbai have topped the list of pilots failing the alcohol test during pre-flight checks, with 18 cases each. Chennai is a distant second with 8 cases and Bengaluru is at the third position with 6 pilots found drunk. Pilots who do not pass the test because of a higher than suitable blood alcohol limit are stood down and suspended.
The Director-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has a clear procedure for the medical examination of aircraft personnel for alcohol consumption. According to it, crew members are prohibited from consuming any alcoholic drink 12 hours prior to the commencement of a flight.
Though the airline has taken prohibitive action according to the rules, it has hardly had any impact. Over the years, the number of such cases has only gone up. In 2010, just one pilot was caught drunk, at Mumbai's airport, while the number stands at 10 for 2018 with three months still to go.
The worst year was 2016 when 16 pilots were caught drunk right before flights were to depart. In response to India Today TV's question about action taken against such pilots, Air India said, "All the above pilots who reported drunk on duty have been given punishment in accordance with the procedures as laid down by DGCA."
The prescribed punishment for such offences laid down by the DGCA clearly states that when a cabin crew member tests positive in a breath analyser test, or fails the test for the first time, his or her licence gets suspended for three months. For a second violation, the licence is suspended for three years and for a third violation, the licence is permanently cancelled. This comes as further bad news for Air India as discussions on its bailout package are at an advanced stage, the government said last month. This was after plans to sell a majority stake in the debt-laden airline failed due to a lack of interest from bidders.
(An India Today TV exclusive)