A senior Air India (AI) pilot was caught drunk just before he was to operate a flight out of Chennai on Friday. The pilot, Captain Sebastian Joseph, who also holds the charge of Flight Operations Inspector (FOI) with the aviation regulator, has been suspended for three months.
What makes the case intriguing is that Joseph was also an examiner - the highest grade for a pilot - with AI. An examiner is authorised to conduct checks on other pilots.Being an FOI with the aviation regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), is a much sought-after and sensitive post. To be appointed in the post, a pilot has to be recommended by his airline. Being an FOI, a pilot can carry out sanitisation checks even in other airlines.
Sources said Joseph's role was being probed by the DGCA in another case that took place a couple of weeks ago. In that case, a co-pilot was found drunk but the second test, which has to be conducted within a specified time period, was allegedly delayed and conducted under Joseph's supervision. The delay, allegedly, benefited the co-pilot who got a clean chit.
DGCA chief Bharat Bhushan has taken a strong stand against drunk pilots, recommending strongest possible action. Four such cases have been reported in the last ten days and the DGCA has switched from alco sensor III to alco sensor IV to carry out these pre-flight checks.
"Joseph was to fly from Chennai to Madurai. If he is caught again for the same offence a second time, he would lose his licence," a DGCA official said.
Joseph was also holding the charge of secretary of the Madras flying club.