Friday, January 2, 2015

Pilots' New Year revelry grounds passengers

Three pilots are under investigation for reporting to work drunk on January 1 and two flights were delayed by several hours allegedly due to the pilots arriving late after New Year revelry. 

While a lone Indigo pilot was the only one to fail the breath-analyzer check conducted by the DGCA at the Mumbai airport on Thursday, two Air India pilots are under the scanner for skipping the mandatory post-flight checks. A special team of the DGCA carried out the breath analyzer checks through Wednesday night and Thursday morning. 

Also on Thursday, passengers of a Jet Airways flight to Bhavnagar that was delayed by three hours claimed airline staff blamed it on the pilot partying till late and arriving late. 

While Jet spokesperson maintained that the delay was due to adverse weather conditions, the official Twitter handle responded to an angry passenger in a contradictory manner, saying the delay was due to operational reasons. Officials said this flight's delay will also be investigated. 

"The Indigo pilot does not have a previous record of failing the breath analyzer tests," said Lalit Gupta, joint-DG, DGCA. "He is a first time offender. Two other Air India pilots who landed in Mumbai from London were also found to have to left the airport without undergoing tests, raising suspicion." 

An Indigo spokesperson said the airline removed the pilot from duty after he failed its mandatory breathalyzer test."The First Officer operating the Mumbai-Delhi flight 6E-176 this afternoon tested positive during his pre-flight medical test, which was conducted under DGCA supervision by an IndiGo doctor. He was immediately removed from the flight and a replacement first officer was sought for. As per laid down rules by DGCA, the first officer will be immediately suspended, and a report to this effect will be submitted to the DGCA office along with his license. The period of suspension as per the regulator is for three months and this violation also gets endorsed in his license." 

As per civil aviation rules, pilots, cabin crew and engineers should stop consumption of alcohol, sedatives or narcotics at least 12 hours before their flights. A DGCA Civil Aviation Requirement says that all pilots and cabin crew of flights originating in India must be subjected to pre-flight breath analyzer tests. Crew of flights originating outside India and culminating here have been asked to undergo postflight BA tests here. An Air India spokesperson sought more time to get details of the incident involving its pilots failing to turn up for post-flight checks. 

"We have expanded the scope of these tests massively," a DGCA official said. "In case a flight is diverted to an airport that does not have BA tests facilities, the crew has now been asked to undergo the same at first landing. Operators flying VVIPs have been asked to ensure that 100% pre-flight testing is done of all crew members," the official said. 

The modified rules that came into effect last month mandates pilots and cabin crew to undergo breathalyzer test before flying each chartered or non-scheduled aircraft as well.Earlier, the norms allowed tests to be carried out for only 60 per cent of non-scheduled flights. "Senior pilots who hold the ranks of instructors, examiners and check pilots and cabin crew in charges will lose these positions when caught high for the first and second times," said Gupta. 

Following amendments, the punishment for reporting drunk on duty more stringent and a pilot's licence will be cancelled for a third offence. Foreign pilots will lose the authorization or permit to fly in India for the first offence. DGCA issues foreign pilots work permits on the basis of their licence. 

Event manager Jignesh Bhutta who was flying to Bhavnagar by a Jet Airways flight that was delayed by three hours said, "The flight time was changed on four occasions. When agitated passengers gathered at the counter the staff told us that there was a shortage of pilots to operate the flight as they were partying last night." 

Jet's official response, however, blamed the weather."Following adverse weather conditions, some Jet Airways flights, like other domestic carriers, in and out of Mumbai have been subject to delay because of late arrival of aircraft and crew being subject to flight and duty time limitations.Guests have been apologized for the delay and compensation is being offered as per DGCA guidelines. Safety is of paramount importance to Jet Airways and we regret the inconvenience caused to our guests," said a Jet Airways spokesperson. 

But in a tweet regarding the same flight, the airline told an angry passenger: "Regret the inconvenience. 9W374 Mumbai-Bhavagar is delayed due to operational reasons."

Original article can be found at: http://www.mumbaimirror.com

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