Christmas and New Year saw an interesting game of cat-and-mouse at various airports in the country. The mouse got away but now the cat has struck back.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has issued notices to all the pilots and crew of domestic airlines who reported late for work on the days.
Every year during Christmas season, the regulator carries out surprise checks to catch tipsy pilots and crew. This year, too, DGCA officers armed with alcometers laid in wait at the airports in various cities, including Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bangalore.
But, much to their surprise everyone came out clean. Not one pilot or crew was caught drunk across the country.
“We did three surprise checks — on the morning of December 25 and 31 and January 1. Every year we used to catch people, but this time no one was caught,” a senior DGCA officer said on condition of anonymity.
“Many of them who could have tested positive reported late and were sent directly to the aircraft to avoid flight delays. This is a gap that we need to plug,” he said.
The regulator has, however, sought explanation from all the later-comers.
An alco-sensor turns red when a drunk person breathes into it.
“If the first test comes positive, another test is done and then the person is grounded. Strict action in the past have brought down the number of drunk pilots,” the officer said.
Last year, the regulator came out with harsher punishments. A three-month suspension is awarded for the first offence. Caught drunk the second time, a pilot’s licence is cancelled for five years.
According to the DGCA, 57 pilots were caught during random checks between January 2009 and November 2010.