Not just drunk pilots and crew but even tipsy aircraft maintenance engineers (AME) are proving to be a cause of serious concern for India’s aviation safety regulator.
AME’s are responsible for keeping an aircraft, worth millions of dollars, in proper working condition through regular maintenance, inspections and repair.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had permitted AME’s to taxi planes parked at airport during night hours for maintenance subject to the condition that they undergo an alcohol test, just like pilots do, each time they enter the cockpit. A recent inspection revealed the rule was being widely violated.
“Since most of the maintenance work is done during the night hours when the majority of the fleet of most Indian carriers is parked at airports, engineers had been permitted to taxi planes from one hangar to the other or from a designated bay to a hangar. This permission was granted to a limited number of AMEs of both scheduled airlines and charter operators,” said a DGCA official, who did not wish to be named.
Around three years back an aircraft being taxied by an AME had skidded off the taxi bay and the AME was found drunk prompting the regulator to make it mandatory for engineers to undergo an alcohol test before taxiing planes.
During a recent safety inspection of an airline, the DGCA found that none of the AMEs had undergone the breath analyser test before taxing planes. “Similar violations were found in some other airlines too,” the DGCA official said.
The regulator has now called for data from airlines for September on how many AMEs underwent the alcohol test before taxiing planes. “We are sure the number of violators would be very high. AMEs found to have skipped the test will be suspended for three months like pilots are after the first violation,” said a source.
“Distance covered while taxiing a plane could be as much as 500 meters. How can an AME, who is drunk, be trusted to do the job? We have also decided to carry out surprise inspection at airports,” said another official.