In a huge embarrassment for Air India (AI), a senior commander was caught drunk by security officials at the Sharjah airport minutes before he was to operate an international flight back home on Saturday.
Sources said this was the third time that the pilot tested positive for alcohol before operating a flight.
The captain, who was reeking of liquor, was caught at the security checkpoint of the Sharjah airport while being frisked by officials along with other passengers.
The security officials informed their seniors and the pilot was taken away.
AI said it had suspended the pilot.
“The captain was not fit to fly. We arranged another pilot to operate the Sharajah-Cochin-Delhi flight. The pilot has been detained for questioning. He was smelling of liquor. An inquiry is on,” said an AI spokesperson.
“Coming drunk to operate a flight should be made a criminal offence. It’s only in India that a pilot is let off multiple times after being caught drunk. In most Western countries, the crew is sent straight to jail after being caught drunk the very first time. Lives of hundreds of passengers are at stake if the person in command of the aircraft is drunk,” said aviation expert Rajji Rai.
AI sources said the pilot’s name, along with two others, had recently been recommended to be considered for the instructor’s (the senior most pilot in the airline) position in the airline.
“Instructors should be role models for future pilots and tainted individuals should not be considered for such responsible positions,” Rai said.