Pilot Union of Air India opposes DGCA’s mandatory alcohol test warning

An Air India pilot union has expressed anxiety over the aviation regulator of India Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA)’s for warning the pilots for allegedly skipping the airline mandatory pre and post-flight alcohol test on international flights.

As per the information, DGCA is contemplating suspending licenses of 130 pilots and 430 cabin crews. Those crews were regularly skipping the breath analyzer test over a period of time for flights to and from certain destinations such as Singapore, Kuwait, Bangkok, Ahmedabad and Goa.

As part of the DGCA’s safety regulations, all pilots and cabin crew must undergo breath analyzer test before and after flights. The queries e-mailed yesterday on the raised saftey issue to Air India spokesperson went unanswered. Notably, aircraft rules prohibit crew members from taking any alcoholic drink 12 hours prior to the commencement of a flight. “The DGCA already brought it to the notice of Air India management that its 132 pilots and 434 cabin crew’s have evaded the mandatory breath analyser test, which is to be taken both before and after operating a flight. It is a safety violation and it (DGCA) is taking a suitable action against these crew members,” a source said.

However, the post-flight breath analysis test conducted at the final destination, in this case Chennai and Bengaluru airport, showed that pilots were fully compliant. Air India said in a statement last week that it was fully complying with all directives issue by the DGCA and the management had misinterpreted the DGCA rules.

“DGCA rules indicated that all schedule flights originating from destinations outside India, post flight breath analysis examination of each flight and cabin crew is to be carried out on reaching India,” an Air India spokesperson said.

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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