Senior Air India pilot banned from flying after skipping alcohol test
India’s aviation safety regulator benched Air India’s executive director (flight operations) for allegedly skipping mandatory breathe checks.mumbai Updated: Feb 10, 2017 13:54 IST
India’s aviation safety regulator benched Air India’s executive director (flight operations) for allegedly skipping mandatory breathe checks.
On February 8, an internal email sent to Air India chairman and managing director Ashwani Lohani stated that the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) wanted Captain Arvind Kathpalia grounded “with immediate effect”. HT has a copy of the email.
Neither Lohani nor the airline spokesperson responded to HT’s query on the issue. But Lalit Gupta, DGCA joint director, confirmed that the senior pilot won’t be allowed to operate flights for now.
“The executive director (operations) of Air India has been off-rostered based on preliminary report of the airline. They have been asked to expedite submission of final report along with evidence to the DGCA,” said Gupta.
Captain Kathpalia said he was not allowed to speak to the media and that the probe was still on.
On January 31, HT had first reported that an AI pilots’ union had tipped off the DGCA on the matter.
Union sources claimed Kathpalia allegedly skipped checks for two flights over a span of three days. The DGCA rules stipulate that first time offenders are denied flying permission for three months. A pilot could be benched for three years if caught a second time. The quantum of punishment is this case is still not clear. But sources say that a three-year break for a senior pilot could end his or her career.
On Thursday, the Indian Commercial Pilots’ Association (ICPA) sent a legal notice to the DGCA seeking action against Kathpalia within seven days. According to the notice, the regulator has taken a prompt action against flight crew booked for the same offence earlier but was ostensibly dragging its feet in this case. “It took the regulator almost 10 days for an action which should have happened immediately,” said an ICPA member requesting anonymity.
Gupta from the DGCA claimed the regulator had not received any legal notice. “The union had sent us a note without naming the pilot. Accordingly, we asked the AI’s air safety department to investigate the matter.”
Last year, the HT had reported that at least one pilot tested positive every two days between January and June in 2016.The DGCA data revealed that such safety lapses almost tripled from 69 cases in 2011 to 186 in 2015.