Controversial Air India pilot gets, then loses new posting
Air India’s pilot body, Indian Commercial Pilot Association, has condemned the move and said that Kathpalia would now be able to take action against those who deposed against him.Updated: May 01, 2019, 09:07 IST
Senior Air India pilot Arvind Kathpalia, who failed the alcohol test just before he was to command a flight on November 11 and was subsequently removed from the post of director (operations), has been appointed as a regional director by the national carrier.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had suspended the flying licence of the 56-year-old pilot for three years on November 12, a day after an “unacceptably high” alcohol count was found in his blood just before he was scheduled to pilot a flight from New Delhi to London.
He was also demoted to executive director by Air India.
“Captain Arvind Kathpalia will take over the charge of the post of regional director (northern region) with effect from May 1, 2019,” reads an order issued by Amrita Sharan, director (personnel), AI, with approval from Air India chairman and managing director Ashwani Lohani.
Air India’s pilot body, Indian Commercial Pilot Association, has condemned the move and said that Kathpalia would now be able to take action against those who deposed against him.
“ICPA strongly condemns this move. Top officials are bending backwards to elevate a tainted official. He’s been made incharge of NR [northern region] where he will be able to intimidate people who are given statements in police enquiry. Disciplinary action against commanders comes under RD-NR. It’s ethically wrong.
A person who has broken the law and chargesheet pending against him cannot take disciplinary action against other employees. ICPA strongly condemns this and will withdraw support. We need justice. It’s yet again proven people with strong political connections can get away with any crime,” ICPA said in a statement.
An air India official, however, said that the power to take action against pilot will not be given to Kathpalia and he will only look after the administrative work.
Kathpalia was previously suspended for three months in January 2018 when he was tested positive for alcohol consumption during a pre-flight breathalyser test. He had resumed duty after that.
Air India spokesperson Dhananjay Kumar said, “Appointment of Arvind Kathpalia as Director Northern Region is according to law. Earlier he was Executive Director and Regional Director is equivalent to Executive Director”.
According to International Civil Aviation Organisation’s regulations, the level of blood alcohol compatible (BAC) with safe flying is “zero”. Kathpalia had 007% BAC.
A third violation could mean the permanent cancellation of the licence.
Meanwhile, the pilot association has said that if the decision is not withdrawn, they will stop supporting the airline.
“We worked extra when Air India’s check-in system collapsed to ensure normalcy in operation. We won’t support the airline if this continues,” said a member of the association.
On January 19 last year, Kathpalia flew a Delhi-Bengaluru flight without going through the mandatory breathalyser test. He did not even take the test after landing in Bengaluru.
Delhi Police had then registered a first information report (FIR) against Kathpalia and the matter is currently under investigation.