DGCA proposes pre-flight breathalyser test to avoid tipsy airplane crew
Pilots and crew members might soon be required to undergo breath analyser tests at transit airports in case they enter the terminal building during flight duty, according to draft norms issued by the DGCA.
The aviation regulator has proposed changes to the 'Procedure for medical examination of aircraft personnel for alcohol consumption' against the backdrop of more than 500 pilots and cabin crew of Air India coming under its scanner for allegedly skipping the pre-and post-flight alcohol tests this year.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has also proposed that repeated violation of breath analyser test norms could result in suspension of the pilot's licence for up to four years, subject to certain conditions.
At present, the quantum of punishment for the violations vary from three months to cancellation of pilot licence or grounding of cabin crew.
"During a flight duty period, if a crew member enters the terminal building at any transit airport, that crew member shall undergo the pre-flight breath analyser examination at that airport before undertaking the flight," as per the draft Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR).
Under current norms, breath analyser or alcohol test is must for crew before and after operating a flight.
"For all scheduled flights originating from India, each flight crew member and cabin crew member shall be subjected to pre-flight breath analyser examination at first departure airport during a flight duty period," the draft CAR said.
In case a crew member operates a flight without undergoing the pre-flight breath analyser examination, the Chief of Operations of the airline concerned has to ensure the "the involved crew member is off-rostered at the first point of landing and same is reported to DGCA...," it added.
About this proposed norm, a DGCA source said that over a period of time, it was felt that the management should also be held responsible if there are lapses.
"Therefore the emphasis is to make the management also accountable, not just the crew," the source said.
An additional crew member who is to travel in the cockpit would also be subject to pre-flight breath analyser test, as per the draft CAR.
The DGCA has suggested suspension of licence or approval of crew member for four years in case the person is tested positive for alcohol in both pre- and post-flight tests.
"If a crew member tested breath analyser positive in pre-flight medical examination in one instance and later tests breath analyser positive in post-flight medical examination in another instance or vice versa, the license/approval of crew member shall be suspended for the period of four years," it noted.
According to the current norms, in case a crew member tests positive in pre-flight breath analyser test, the individual would be suspended for three months. Similar is the quantum if the crew member refuses to undergo or attempts to evade post-flight test.
Now, the draft CAR has proposed linking violation of pre-flight and post-flight violations.
If a crew member tests positive during pre-flight test or evades it and later, in another instance, evades a post-flight test, the individual would face suspension for three years.
The source said the attempt is to ensure more clarity in the rules as very often it was contested that skipping a post-flight has no bearing on evasion of a pre-flight offence.
"This is just to ensure that there is no iota of doubt. Often violators say they misunderstood the rules so we are making them very clear," the source added.
In the case of Air India, the airline and the DGCA held discussions on as many as 132 pilots and 434 cabin crew coming under the lens for allegedly skipped these tests.
While apologising for the lapses, the airline has told the DGCA their actions were based on interpretation of CAR.
"There was no violation of breath analyser test at the last point for all the flights. We have sincerely apologised and assured the DGCA that we will carry out breath analyser tests as per their requirements and as per the clarity given on the CAR," Air India CMD Rajiv Bansal had said last month.