Flight crew beat alcohol tests by holding breath
The aviation safety regulator has asked domestic airlines to upgrade the device they use to check if their flight crew has consumed alcohol.mumbai Updated: Feb 14, 2012 01:29 IST
The aviation safety regulator has asked domestic airlines to upgrade the device they use to check if their flight crew has consumed alcohol.
Airlines currently use breathalysers that gauge alcohol content in a person’s breath. A serious lacuna in the pre-flight alchohol tests came to the notice of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) during surprise checks conducted at the Mumbai airport on January 1.
The regulator found that crew could beat the existing device — alco sensor III, by holding their breath. “We found that if a person pops a mouth freshener and holds his breath before blowing into the device, it records the fresh air sample and gives a clean chit,” said a senior DGCA official requesting anonymity. But alco sensor IV, the device’s advanced version does not register a reading unless air is blown into it with high pressure.
“We decided to use alco-sensor IV during the checks on January 1 because none of 400-odd flight crew checked on Christmas Day had tested positive for alcohol,” added the DGCA official. While checks were conducted at all metro airports, Mumbai was the only centre where a pilot and three cabin crew personnel tested positive.
Subsequently, 12 flight crew including four senior pilots (commanders) and eight flight attendants tested positive during a series of surprise checks conducted with the advanced device across airports in the country, last month.
Rules forbid flight crew members from consuming alcohol 12 hours before operating a flight.
“We have informally told airlines to upgrade the device with immediate effect and a civil aviation requirement (CAR) in being prepared to make the rule mandatory,” said DGCA chief Bharat Bhushan.