A pilot with a budget airline tested positive during a surprise pre-flight breathalyser test conducted by air safety officials on Thursday.
Around 400 flight crew members, with across domestic airlines, were randomly selected for the surprise check at the Mumbai airport on Thursday morning.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has also ordered a probe against an airline that cancelled a few flights at the last minute after pilots reported sick.
“We suspect that the pilots called in sick to avoid the pre-flight alcohol tests,” said a senior DGCA official.
According to the DGCA, flight crew should not be under the influence of alcohol 12 hours before operating a flight. Such checks are common a day after Christmas and New Years’s eve.
Last year the regulator amended the rule for alcohol test, bringing aircraft maintenance engineers under scrutiny. However, the punishment was made lenient.
The punishment for first time offenders is three months, but second-time offenders could be benched for only two years as against the previous rule of five years. Crew caught for the third time would be grounded for five years, the act states.
“It also states that crew can start with a clean slate, which means if a pilot was caught this year, it would not be counted in the subsequent year,” said an air safety expert requesting anonymity.
But the regulator has tightened the noose on expat pilots. As per revised draft, expat pilots found positive for alchohol could lose the local license (Foreign Crew Authorization License).