This may be good news for air travellers or it may not.
Increase in the frequency of random breath analyser tests for pilots seems to have got results. On March 22, two pilots working with low-cost carrier Spicejet tested positive for alchohol in Delhi and Mumbai, respectively. Both were found drunk a few minutes before scheduled take-off of their flights.
The pilots — an expat and local — were caught out by a random test conducted by the airline. Both of them have been grounded.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) — the regulatory body for air travel — has asked airlines to increase the frequency of random breath analyser checks for pilots.
“We have asked them to increase the frequency of random checks to keep people on their toes,” said a DGCA official requesting anonymity.
Earlier, only the regulator conducted these surprise checks. The official added: “Since January this year, we have found increased cases of pilots evading breathe analyzers tests.”
The decision was taken in the wake of increased stress among pilots post the downturn in Indian aviation last year. “Pilots have been facing increased stress fearing pay cuts since October 2008. In such times, they often take to drinking,” said a doctor conducting medical tests for pilots, recognised by the DGCA.
The airline spokesperson, said, “In full compliance with established safety norms, we conduct breathe analyser tests for the crew. Any case of non-compliance with safety standards is acted upon as per DGCA rules.”