Monday, February 13, 2012

Indonesia wants to change drug tests for pilots

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Pilots should be tested for drugs a few hours or days before they fly, rather than undergoing the routine testing every six months as they do now, Indonesia's transportation minister said Monday.

Testing them every six months may not be effective because drug users could prepare for the tests, Minister Evert Ernest Mangindaan said.

The ministry is revising regulations after the arrests of three pilots and a co-pilot from budget airliner Lion Air since September for using illicit drugs.

The arrests have raised concern over security and safety in aviation, a main mode of travel in this sprawling nation of 17,000 islands.

"Airlines should carry out strict urine tests for all their pilots few hours or days before they fly aircraft," Mangindaan said in Surabaya, where one of the pilots was arrested this month.

Lion Air pilot Syaiful Salam was arrested Feb. 4 three hours before he was to fly a plane. Authorities said he had a small amount of crystal methamphetamine, known locally as "Shabu-shabu."

Another colleague was arrested in South Sulawesi in January, and a pilot and co-pilot were caught with Shabu-shabu and ecstasy pills last September, two months before the airliner signed the biggest order ever from Boeing -- 230 planes with a list price of $21.7 billion.

Last week, a co-pilot failed a random drug test at Jakarta's airport and three others failed to show up for the testing, transportation ministry officials said, without identifying them.


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