NEW DELHI: In a second incident in 24 hours, an Air India flight from Delhi to London has been delayed after a pilot of the carrier was found unfit to fly.
A senior pilot with Air India Arvind Kathpalia and Director (Operations) on November 11 failed the breathalyser test and was declared 'not fit to fly'. This is the second time Kathpalia failed the test, he tested 'positive' earlier on January 19, 2017.
Passengers of the Air India flight AI 111 to London have been left stranded at the Delhi airport.
"We have grounded Captain A K Kathpalia as he failed twice in the breathalyser test. He was to operate the London flight from New Delhi, but he failed to clear the pre-flight alcohol test," a senior airline official told Indian media.
A second Air India pilot was also grounded on November 12. Flight AI 332 from New Delhi to Bangkok was ordered to return 30 minutes after taking off as the co-pilot was found to have missed his mandatory, pre-flight breathalyser test.
Drunk pilots is not a new phenomenon but rather endemic in India by given the number of pilots who were caught rather inebriated on the job. According to a report, 132 pilots, over a course of three years, were found to be drunk before their flights at various airports in the country.
Given the gravity of the situation, there are stringent government regulations against drunk pilots which stipulate cancellation of their licences among other penalties. Airlines in the past have taken stringent action against drunk pilots, yet the problem fails to abate.
Rule 24 of the Aircraft Rules prohibits crew members from partaking any alcoholic drink 12 hours prior to the commencement of a flight, and it is mandatory for him or her to undergo an alcohol test both before and after operating a flight.
Air India have said that Kathpalia is a repeat offender. The flying license of the senior pilot was suspended for three months in February 2017 for allegedly skipping a mandatory pre-flight medical test.
According to rules of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), a pilot who fails the breath analysis test must be suspended for three years.
Pilot Kathpalia, who is responsible for safety at the airline as operations director, denied drinking on the job and said he would contest the results of the alcohol checks.
He was appointed as the executive director of operations, a decision which was challenged on January 19, 2017 by a pilot's association in the Delhi High Court in August 2018. He was subsequently removed from the post.
However, he was later appointed to the post of director (operations) in Air India Ltd for a period of five years.