Oddly Enough

Pilots in India often fail alcohol tests

A plane is silhouetted by the sun in New Delhi December 30, 2005. REUTERS/B Mathur

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Around 50 pilots each year in India are being grounded because they had consumed alcohol before taking a flight, the country’s civil aviation authorities said Tuesday.

The Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), a body controlling airline operations in India, said dozens of pilots are found to have consumed alcohol during routine pre-medical tests every year.

India is one of the fastest growing aviation markets in the world with dozens of new airlines competing with each other everyday, often resulting in pilots forced to fly at short notices.

The country has about 4,500-5,000 commercial pilots, and another 2,500 are undergoing training.

Civil aviation rules specify that pilots and cabin crew cannot consume alcohol 12 hours before taking a flight.

“We do catch pilots who had taken alcohol routinely and so does the airlines,” Kanu Gohain, a top DGCA official told Reuters Tuesday.

“We have strict guidelines for alcohol intake and any operating crew is pulled up immediately, and the airlines too can punish crew members,” he said by telephone from Mumbai.

A pilot can be grounded for three months and he can lose his license if he repeats the mistake again, Gohain added.

A flight from India’s capital to the eastern city of Patna was cancelled Saturday after a routine medical test on crew members revealed the pilot had consumed alcohol.

Reporting by Bappa Majumdar; Editing by Alistair Scrutton and Sanjeev Miglani