Nearly two weeks after an Air India pilots’ union reported a serious safety lapse by the airline’s chief of flight operations, India’s aviation regulator barred Captain Arvind Kathpalia from flying for three months.
On Monday, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) issued an order that found the senior pilot guilty of evading a pre-flight breathe check-up last month. Such preventive checks are mandatory before and after each flight to ensure that on-duty pilots and cabin crew duty are sober.
However, the Indian Commercial Pilots’ Association (ICPA) — that brought the lapse to light — accused the regulator of being lenient with Captain Kathpalia.
On Monday, hours after the order was issued, the pilots’ body sent a note to Lalit Gupta, joint director general of the DGCA. It contained details of flights operated by Captain Kathpalia, which indicated that the senior pilot had evaded such checks more than once. DGCA rules state that repeat offenders’ flying permits should be suspended for three years.
According to ICPA’s note on January 19, Captain Kathpalia skipped the breathalyser test before operating Delhi-Bengaluru flight AI 174. It added that after reaching Bengaluru, the airline’s flight dispatch department alerted him about the lapse. Despite that, he allegedly skipped the check again while operating the return flight (AI 173) to Delhi.
While the DGCA order found him guilty of evading the test before AI 174, it did not take into account the subsequent return flight, the ICPA note added.
Gupta did not respond to HT’s calls.
The union’s note added that the senior pilot allegedly evaded the check for the third time after landing in Delhi. “The DGCA has chosen to ignore two back-to-back violations,” said a senior ICPA member requesting anonymity. The ICPA also allegedly that Captain Kathpalia had also forged entries in the pre-flight medical check register in Delhi.
“You should take stringent action against Captain A. Khatpalia as he holds a reputable post. He had held the senior-most post of ‘chief of flight operations inspector’ in the DGCA in the past and is well-versed with the rules of Indian aviation. His acts are criminal offences and his forgery is demeaning,” the note concluded.
The AI spokesperson did not comment on the matter.