DGCA to dope-test pilots, ATC staff
India’s aviation regulator wants to introduce random drug tests for pilots and Air Traffic Controllers (ATCs) in line with international norms, according to a statement by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) issued on Friday.
The proposed rules say that the regulator and airlines can subject pilots and ATCs to urine tests to detect the use of marijuana and drugs such as amphetamines. Those that refuse to undergo the tests will be taken off duty.
Currently, airlines and the aviation regulator only conduct liquor tests for crew members and also air traffic controllers. On failing the breathlyzer test, they face suspension for three months.
DGCA added in its statement that the move is in line with regulations across the world and instituted by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency. According to one study done in 2016, FAA found at least one pilot a month failing the drug and alcohol test, and in 2015 alone, 38 pilots failed the drug test.
“Steps taken to enhance aviation safety is welcome,” said Capt T Praveen Keerthi, general secretary, Indian Commercial Pilots Association (IPCA).
The tests will initially be restricted to six airports, Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad, covering 10% of the personnel. The proposed rules say that the testing process will be video-recorded and if the initial test is positive for cocaine, ecstasy (a recreational drug), marijuana/ hashish or any other kinds of drugs, it will then be taken for a confirmatory test to a DGCA-approved lab.
If the confirmatory tests confirm the presence of a drug, the subject will have to undergo rehabilitation and can only come back to work after being cleared by a psychiatrist and after undergoing other tests. In case a pilot tests positive again, the flying license will be cancelled.
When asked what prompted the move, a DGCA spokesperson said, “We had no regulations so we are trying to fill a gap.”
These proposed rules are now up for public comments, and will only be enforced after their scrutiny in April.