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Drunk pilots get away with mild punishment

india Updated: Jul 24, 2009 01:26 IST
Drunk pilots get away with mild punishment

Three cases have come to light of pilots being allowed to work before serving out their suspension terms, imposed for reporting drunk to work.

This comes a day after Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel told Parliament that domestic airlines had grounded 29 pilots over the past 13 months for reporting drunk to work.

SpiceJet pilot Captain Bavesh Mishra reported to work a mere three days after being suspended for failing a breath analyser test in March, a copy of the airlines’ pilot duty sheet for that month shows.

Pilots are normally suspended for four to six weeks.

Similarly, two Jetlite pilots began working almost immediately being suspended, according to details provided by two independent sources — one from the airline and one from the regulating body, the directorate general of civil aviation.

Captain J.P. Pandit, an examiner, namely a senior pilot who acts as an observer on flights manned by junior pilots, was suspended on December 31, 2008, after testing positive on a breath analyser test, but began working a few days later.

Two months later, his colleague Captain A.S. Malli, also an examiner, was suspended for the same reason but resumed working immediately afterwards.

“The directorate general of civil aviation said that all the pilots were duly punished,” Maushumi Chakravarthy, a spokesperson for the civil aviation ministry, when presented with this data. “Their salaries were deducted and they were grounded for a month.”

But she declined to say who exactly had been grounded and whose salaries were cut.

Airlines may be taking a lenient view of pilots’ transgressions because they suffer from a shortage of senior pilots.

“Airlines can’t lose senior pilots because they are limited in India,” said a senior airline official requesting anonymity as he is not authorised to talk to the media. “And, with most of them bleeding badly, expat pilots are beyond their budgets.”

Of the 29 pilots who tested positive for alcohol during their pre-flight medical examinations over the past 12 months, eight worked for Kingfisher Airlines, six each for Indigo and SpiceJet and three each for Jetlite, Jet Airways and Paramount.