Two days after a warning from the aviation watchdog, the national carrier Air India grounded captain MP Sharma for skipping a medical test before operating a flight.
The senior pilot can’t fly pending an inquiry in the matter.
On April 18, Sharma, the airline’s general manager, operations, skipped the medical test before operating a flight from Bhubaneswar to Mumbai. Later, he allegedly threatened the airline’s doctor to make a false entry in the pre-flight medical test register.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has recently made this test mandatory for all flights to check if a pilot is drunk on duty. “Captain Sharma has been suspended pending an inquiry. He will lose his licence if caught again,” said Bharat Bhushan, director general, DGCA.
The DGCA has taken action against 57 pilots for drunken flying in 2010 and terminated 10 of them. Of the 10 cockpit crew whose services were terminated for having been found under intoxication in a pre-flight test, four belonged to low-cost carrier SpiceJet and three each were from Indigo Airlines and Kingfisher Airlines.
Captain Sharma had rubbished the charges when the Hindustan Times spoke to him on Wednesday.
He was not reachable for a comment on Friday.
The DGCA is also likely to dig into previous cases of safety violations against the senior
pilot. The Hindustan Times had, on April 16, reported that the same pilot had failed to report a serious case of air turbulence when he was operating a Bangkok-bound flight from Mumbai on November 19, 2009.
A cabin crew member on board the flight, that was carrying more than 100 passengers, was seriously hurt when the aircraft suddenly climbed 1,700 feet from an altitude of 37,000 feet.
The scariest part of the unreported incident was that the vertical distance permitted between two flights is 1,000 feet. This implies that there were chances of the aircraft crashing into another plane flying at a higher altitude.