New Delhi: Civil aviation minister Suresh Prabhu on Tue-sday ordered the immediate removal of Air India’s senior official Capt. A.K. Kathpalia from the post of the airline’s director (operations). This came after aviation regulator DGCA had on Monday suspended his pilot licence for a period of three years after he failed a pre-flight breath-ana-lyser test for alcohol consumption on Sunday in New Delhi.
The licence suspension had been for three years since Mr Kathpalia had already allegedly committed a related offence earlier — that of skipping his breathalyser test on a previous occasion last year. The DGCA had then, in February, 2017, suspended his licence for three months.
“Taking cognisance of the serious nature of the transgression and failure to course correct even after an earlier suspension of flying licence for three months, the minister of civil aviation Suresh Prabhu has accorded approval (for) relieving of Mr Kathpalia from the charge of Director (Operations), Air India, with immediate effect,” the civil aviation Ministry said in an order on Tuesday.
Another airline official has been given additional charge of the crucial post till further orders.
As per rules, if a pilot either fails the breath-analyser test or misses a breath-analyser test, the suspension of licence is for three months, but if he either fails the test twice or fails it once and misses it on another, the licence suspension is for three years. If the pilot fails the test thrice, his licence is cancelled.
In a statement, Air India said a probe had been ordered into the incident that would be carried out by its chief vigilance
officer. Terming the incident in which Mr Kathpalia had failed the breath-analyser test.
for alcohol detection on Sunday as having serious implications for passenger safety, the national carrier said its probe would also cover various aspects of the conduct of Capt Kathpalia.
On Monday, DGCA sources had said, “In case of Capt. Kathpalia being detected (Breath-analyser) BA positive (for alcohol-consumption) on November 11, 2018, the privileges of his licence have been suspended for a period of three years from 11.11.2018 as per the provisions of applicable regulations.”
According to news agency reports earlier on Sunday, Capt. Kathpalia failed to clear the pre-flight breath-analyser test before he was to operate an Air India flight from New Delhi to London on Sunday afternoon following which he was immediately grounded by the national carrier.
Rules of aviation regulator DGCA state, "As per the provision of Rule 24 of the Aircraft Rules, 'no person acting as, or carried in aircraft for the purpose of acting as pilot, commander, navigator, engineer, cabin crew or the other operating member of the crew thereof, shall have taken or used any alcoholic drink, sedative, narcotic, or stimulant drug preparation within 12 hours of the commencement of the flight or taken or use any such preparation in the course of the flight... '."
Pre-flight alcohol consumption or consumption during the flight as per the above rules is not allowed since it jeopardises air-safety. As DGCA rules point out, “Alcohol present in body even in small quantities jeopardises flight safety on several counts and is likely to adversely affect an aviator well into the hangover period. ... Consumption of alcohol results in significant deterioration of psychomotor performance and decreases the amount of mental capacity available to deal with many essential tasks involved in the conduct of safe flight. Should an emergency occur in-flight, the crew member under the influence of alcohol is not capable of dealing with the problem.”
In a statement, Air India said a probe had been ordered into the incident that would be carried out by its Chief Vigilance Officer. Terming the incident in which Capt. Kathpalia had failed the breath-analyser test for alcohol detection on Sunday as having serious implications for passenger safety, the national carrier said its probe would also cover various aspects of the conduct of Capt Kathpalia....