The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has suspended two pilots from Air India and Jet Airways for four years after they were found drunk on arrival of their international flights in India.
Reported this month, both the incidents involved overseas flights. Both the airlines have been directed to register FIRs against the pilots. An Air India cabin crew member has also been slapped with a one-year suspension after traces of alcohol were found in his breath during post-flight checks.
The two pilots are reportedly repeat offenders as even earlier they had tested positive for alcohol during pre-flight examinations, according to Press Trust of India.
On Aug. 3, the pilot of the Jet Airways Abu Dhabi-Chennai flight was found drunk. On Aug. 10, pilot of the Air India Sharjah-Calicut flight had tested positive for alcohol during post-flight examination.
In fact, the airline had to divert a flight to Kozhikode with an additional pilot as the plane ran into problems after the Air India pilot was grounded and the crew was inadequate to operate any more flights.
Authorities take action
Citing zero tolerance towards any action of the crew that contravenes safety standards mandated in its operating manual approved by the DGCA, Jet Airways spokesperson said that the airline has terminated the services of the concerned pilot.
"In case of non-compliance, we take disciplinary action after due investigation as per company policy," said the statement, while adding that the airlines clearly mentioned the rules in the prescribed service conditions for crew and the same is adequately emphasised during internal training sessions.
An Air India spokesperson also confirmed the incident and said the pilot had been removed from service. "We have set up an inquiry committee to look into the incident," the spokesperson said.
Problem points to a pattern of misbehaviour
Around 26 cases of pilots failing pre-flight alcohol tests have occurred until July this year. Forty-three such cases were reported in 2015.
The quantum of punishment for failing such tests in India varies. At first, the pilots are suspended for three months. A second violation earns you a three year suspension. A third violation calls for the pilot's license to be cancelled.
DGCA regulations differ from other countries where they have random alcohol testing policies. Instead, it mandates 100 percent screening for crew of Indian carriers before every flight departing from an Indian airport and after every flight arriving into the country.
Recently, a senior pilot of a national carrier was detained at the Mumbai airport for attempting to smuggle seven gold bars worth Rs. 15,65,567. The pilot, who considered he wouldn't be checked on account of his seniority, was carrying the gold bars in his hand luggage.