Air India pilot skipped alcohol test before flight, police file case

A pilots’ union said the episode involved forgery, intimidation of a doctor, and serious violations of aviation rules.

delhi Updated: Sep 01, 2018 00:46 IST
Anvit Srivastava
Anvit Srivastava
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Air India,Air India pilot,Pre-flight alcohol test
The Air India pilot flew as the Captain of a Delhi-Bengaluru on January 19, 2017 without going through the mandatory breathalyser test either in Delhi or Bengaluru.(REUTERS File Photo)

The Delhi Police have booked a senior Air India pilot who operated a flight without going through the mandatory pre-flight alcohol test, and a senior aviation regulator who investigated that incident, after a pilots’ union said the episode involved forgery, intimidation of a doctor, and serious violations of aviation rules.

The allegations relate to Arvind Kathpalia, who is also the director of Air India’s flight operations, and Lalit Gupta, who is the joint director at the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). The FIR lodged on Friday came after a court heeded to a petition by the Indian Commercial Pilots Association. Neither of them agreed to comment on the developments.

According to the ICPA, Kathpalia flew as the Captain of Delhi-Bengaluru flight AI 174 on January 19, 2017 without going through the mandatory breathalyser test. He did not take the test after landing at Bengaluru either, the ICPA alleged, despite being reminded about it.

“...Even after being informed about his infraction by the flight dispatcher at the time of landing the flight AI 174 in Bengaluru, he failed to take the post-flight breath analyser test at Bengaluru airport,” according to the copy of the FIR, seen by HT. The report also mentions that Kathpalia then flew back to Delhi, again without taking a test.

Deputy commissioner of police (IGIA), Sanjay Bhatia confirmed police have registered the case. “A team is investigating the matter.” 

Back in the capital, according to the allegations, Kathpalia went to the medical examination room and made false entries in a register meant to track pre-flight checks of all crew and pilots. According to DGCA rules, skipping these checks is regarded as testing positive for intoxication.

The ICPA in their statement said according to aviation rules, the signature of a doctor on duty at the medical room is mandatory for each entry but when they checked Kathpalia’s record, there was no sign by the doctor. Kathpalia’s time of reporting too did not match other employees who were with him on the same flight, which, the ICPA said, suggested the entry was false.

It is possible that since he is a senior official, none of the airline officials stopped him from boarding the flight, officials in the pilots association and the aviation regulator told Hindustan Times. Both officials asked to remain unnamed.

Chief of DGCA, BS Bhullar, too refused to comment on the case. An Air India spokesperson said the airline will not comment since the matter is subjudice. Calls and text messages to the Union ministry of civil aviation remained unanswered at the time of going to print.

Police said that Kathpalia’s act was noted by the airline after which the ICPA was informed. The ICPA, in turn, informed the DGCA, which ordered an inquiry.

The inquiry found Kathpalia guilty of misconduct and that he threatened a doctor on duty when he made the signatures, according to the FIR. Little less than a month later, Kathpalia’s Air Transport Pilots License was suspended for three months.

But during the inquiry, the pilots association said, the DGCA official Gupta attempted to influence officials.

On Friday, the ICPA wrote to the Union civil aviation minister requesting that there should be no intervention, manipulation or intimidation by the accused till Delhi Police completes investigation.

First Published: Sep 01, 2018 00:46 IST