Pilots on duty who consume alcohol before or during flights should be treated as criminals, aviation experts said, adding that pilots should undergo breath analyser tests before and after a flight and any violation should be treated as a criminal offence.
They were also of the opinion that even aircraft maintenance personnel on ground should undergo the breath analyser (BA) test. The BA test must be strictly enforced as both pilots and ground crew staff were responsible for thousands of passengers' lives.
An official of the Indian Commerical Pilots Association (ICPA) told IANS that post flight BA tests were done only for international flights to India whereas no pre-flight alcohol tests were done.
"If an Air India pilot flies an international flight after taking alcohol then he is risking the lives of several hundreds of passengers. But by the time he lands in India then the alcohol level might have gone down and would pass the BA test," he said.
The official said in the case of domestic flight, pre-flight BA test is done.
According to him, drunken flying should be treated as a criminal offence.
"The airline can hire doctors or agencies to oversee the conduct of the BA tests," the ICPA official added.
An Indian Air Force (IAF) official told IANS preferring anonymity: "No sane person will start a fighter jet under the influence of alcohol. It is akin to committing suicide."
When a pilot or a ground service personnel fails the BA tests or misses it for the first time then the penalty is three months of suspension of licence/approval.
In case of a failing the breath analyser test for second time then the licence or approval is suspended for three years.
When a pilot fails the test for third time then the penalty is cancellation of the licence/approval.
Indian aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation suspended the licence of Air India's senior pilot and Director Operations Arvind Kathpalia for three years after he failed pre-flight breath-analyser test on November 11 before piloting the New Delhi-London flight.