Rule on alcoholic test endangers lives: Pilots to DGCA

Pilots hit back after DGCA warns of suspending 132 pilots and 434 crew members of Air India.

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Rule on alcoholic test endangers lives: Pilots to DGCA


A union of Air India pilots has asked the DGCA why are crew of Indian carriers operating a flight from a foreign station not required to undergo alcohol after landing in India.

As per rules framed by the civil aviation regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), pilots and cabin crew of flights originating from India have to undergo pre- flight breath-analyser test while those of flights originating from destinations outside India will be subjected to an examination on reaching India. The Indian Commercial Pilots' Association (ICPA), in a letter to Director General, DGCA, B S Bhullar, said that safety of passengers was being endangered by not requiring an alcohol test of the flight and cabin crew before take-off.

The pilots' body wrote this while registering their protest after the DGCA warned that it could suspend 132 pilots and 434 crew members of Air India for skipping the mandatory pre- and post-flight breath analyser test for alcohol. "We would also like to know why no doctors are present at international stations to perform breath analyser test for any Indian carriers? Are senior officials working in connivance with private carriers to save their cost? "We strongly believe PFM (pre-flight medical) should be done before a flight and not at first or second port of landing in India after a flight endangering the safety of innocent flying passengers," says the letter.

Pilots say that flights from international stations are exempt from pre-flight medical test because carriers find it difficult to depute doctors for this purpose. The union has also hinted that if DGCA acts on its warning it will be "selective" in handing out the punishment. "Why Mr Lalit Gupta has taken data of only two flights (Kuwait-Goa-Chennai and Dubai-Goa-Bangalore) from the entire network of Air India, that too recent past three months and not from the CAR effective date of 4th August 2015," the letter adds.

The two flights against whose crew the DGCA is planning to act are flights from international stations that transit through India to reach their final destination in the country. Other flights that operate in a similar pattern are Sharjah-Trivandrum-Chennai, Shanghai-Delhi-Mumbai, Hong Kong- Delhi-Mumbai. The pilot's body has also asked why did the DGCA not conduct any audit in the past two years since the new rule came into effect.
DGCA sources say that it may act against the airline's employees in a phased manner instead of suspending them in one go so that Air India operations are not effected but the union has said that this would be in contravention of rules that require grounding of crew immediately.

DGCA has written to Air India warning it that 132 pilots and 434 crew members might face suspension of three months because of violation of rules mandating breath analyser examination. However, the CMD of Air India Rajiv Bansal has written to the DGCA appealing that pilots should not be penalised for something that is not their fault. He explained that the violation was a result of "interpretation of language" of Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR) on the part of the airline management. He also assured the regulator that the airline had taken "immediate corrective action" and that there was no violation any more. 

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