An Air India pilots union on Monday accused the civil aviation regulator of being selective in enforcing its mandatory post-flight breath analysis test for crew manning international flights.
“We have come to know that DGCA is contemplating suspending licences of 132 pilots and 400 cabin crew,” General Secretary of Indian Commercial Pilots’ Association (ICPA) Captain T. Praveen Keerthi said in a letter to the civil aviation regulator — Directorate General of Civil Aviation — on Monday.
According to the letter sent to DGCA’s Director General B.S. Bhullar, the CAR (Civil Aviation Requirement) in this regard has been effective since August 4, 2015.
“Kindly enlighten us as to why DGCA official in charge of Air Safety did not conduct any audit for the past two years,” the letter read.
“Why Lalit Gupta (Joint Director General, DGCA) has taken data of only two flights — (Kuwait-Goa-Chennai) and (Dubai-Goa-Bangalore) — from the entire network of Air India, that too recent past three months and not from the CAR effective date of 4th August 2015,” said the letter from ICPA which is the union of the erstwhile Indian Airlines’ pilots.
“Apart from these two flights which are singled out, there are at least three more flights in Air India network which are not considered by DGCA — (Sharjah-Trivandrum-Chennai), (Shanghai-Delhi-Mumbai) and (Hong Kong-Delhi-Mumbai).”
The letter comes less than a fortnight after the DGCA reportedly warned of grounding at least 130 pilots and over 430 crew members of Air India for allegedly avoiding the mandatory post-flight alcohol tests.
“If DGCA still contemplates on suspending the licences of these 132 pilots, then all pilots involved in other similar transit route patterns must also be suspended along with these pilots, all at the same time, including quick return flights from abroad since 4th August 2015, the date on which CAR was made effective.” the letter read.
According to the DGCA’s safety manual, all pilots and crew are required to undergo mandatory breath analysis confirming they have not consumed any alcohol at least 12 hours before a flight.
However, air crew operating international flights have to undergo a post-flight breath analyser test as alcohol is available on-board flights originating from foreign airports.
But in this case, the AI’s management interpreted that the checks should be conducted at the final port of call rather than at the entry point in India.
Subsequently, AI’s management wrote to the DGCA explaining its stand.
“Every single pilot of these 132 had undergone the breath analyser test at the final port of termination and has followed management’s instructions 100 per cent and at no point did any of these pilots refuse or attempt to evade the post-flight breath analyser examination,” the letter read.
“Air India management did not provide medical facility at transit stations as the DGCA CAR was interpreted to carry out post-flight medical after completion of the flight, putting the onus between the management of Air India and DGCA and not on the pilots or crew members.”