Four Spicejet pilots test positive for alcohol in five days, grounded
The four pilots are captain Joel Hangshing, captain Nikhil Suri, captain Richa Chauhan and first officer Chander Pratap.
Four SpiceJet pilots have been grounded after their mandatory preflight medical test showed they were drunk when they arrived to fly their scheduled flights.
The incidents happened between a period of five days from November 29 to December 2, the airline said.
The four pilots are captain Joel Hangshing, captain Nikhil Suri, captain Richa Chauhan and first officer Chander Pratap. Documents accessed by HT show while Hangshing was scheduled to fly SG 6365 from Mumbai to Kolkata on November 29, Suri had to fly flight number SG 8913 from Delhi to Ahmedabad.
Chauhan was detected positive for alcohol when she was scheduled to fly flight number SG 376 from Mumbai to Patna, Pratap had to fly SG 192 to Bagdogra from Delhi.
All the pilots were to fly Boeing 737 aircraft, the capacity of which ranges between 85 and 215 passengers.
In its media statement, a SpiceJet spokesperson said the pilots who failed to clear the preflight alcohol test were immediately grounded as per DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation) rules.
“Crew members have to take a compulsory breath analyser test before operating a flight. SpiceJet has a zero tolerance approach to pilots flying under the influence of alcohol. The airline permits zero alcohol level in blood right before a pilot flies an aircraft and takes the strictest possible action against anyone found violating the rules,” the airline said in the statement.
Recommendations of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) say the level of blood alcohol compatible (BAC) with safe flying is ‘zero’.
According to DGCA rules, a crew member who tests positive to the breath analyser test is grounded for three months in case of violation for the first time and three years for the second violation. The third violation leads to cancellation of the flying licence of the crew member.
SpiceJet, however, could not confirm if the pilots had violated the DGCA mandate for the first time.
In an internal mail to the pilots, SpiceJet said “the fact that there are four events in a span of one week is clearly indicative that some pilots do not understand the gravity or the implication of being tested positive for alcohol.”
The mail said, “Effective immediately, the company will take punitive action that is much more severe than that called for by the regulations for all cases of BA positive.
India’s civil aviation regulator in August had proposed that engineers working at the airside, air traffic controllers and drivers of passenger bridges and buses will be subjected to breath analyser tests soon. Until now, only aircraft pilots and crew had to take the test.
In November last year, an Air India pilot was grounded minutes before he was scheduled to fly more than 200 passengers from New Delhi to London because his mandatory preflight medical tests showed he was too drunk to commandeer the aircraft. The 56-year-old pilot, a second-time offender, earlier booked for a similar offence in August, faced licence suspension for three years.