DGCA to conduct surprise checks to catch drunk pilots, crew

The Indian aviation watchdog Thursday said it will carry out surprise checks and enforce stricter norms to stop pilots and cabin crew getting tipsy while at work.

"We are currently conducting regular checks ourselves and we will also be conducting surprise checks going forward. We will take strictest possible action against any person who is caught," E.K. Bharat Bhushan, directorate general of civil aviation (DGCA), told IANS.

The development comes as DGCA cracked the the whip on a tipsy pilot of a private airline by cancelling his licence for five years. The pilot failed a pre-flight breath analyser test. Earlier the same pilot's licence was suspended for three months following another failed attempt at clearing the pre-flight breath analyser test.

"The action was taken under the new Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR), which clearly states that two time offender's licence would be suspended for five years," Bhushan said.

DGCA had amended its rules on pre-flight medical checks in January 2011 which now require airlines to conduct the test before all domestic flights and after every 15 days at foreign airports.

Pilots and flight crew are not allowed to drink 12 hours before operating flights.

On Feb 3, DGCA suspended the licence of Air India captain Sebastian after he failed the advanced breath analyser test before he was supposed to have operated a flight between Chennai and Madurai.

Last month 12 pilots and cabin crew failed the mandatory breath analyser test.
Bhushan added that all the airlines had been directed to use advance hand-held breath analyser system -- Alco-Sensor IV, which is said to be more effective in catching even the slightest of alcohol content in the breath.

"We have directed all airlines to use Alco-Sensor IV advanced breathalyser to conduct pre-flight checks."

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