Senior Air India pilot fails alcohol test, another skips it; both grounded

The loopy flight path of AI332

The loopy flight path of AI332

The Director of Operations at Air India, Captain Arvind Kathpalia, failed a mandatory breathalyzer test and was found to have an unacceptably high blood alcohol count shortly before he was scheduled to command AI-111, a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, on a flight between New Delhi and London.

An Air India flight from Delhi to London was delayed after the pilot of the carrier was grounded after he was found unfit to fly. According to a tweet by ANI, Kathpalia was found positive in BA test and was later grounded by authorities. Air Traffic Control asked the flight to turn back.

Every year, about 20 flight crew fail the breathalyzer test in India.

The flight took off again at 8:40 pm, after a delay of seven hours.

"We have grounded Captain AK Kathpalia as he failed twice in the breath analyser test".

The prescribed punishment for such offences under the DGCA rules is suspension of flying licence for three months in case of the first breach. Last year, the DGCA had suspended Kathpalia for three months after he had skipped a compulsory pre-flight medical test several times.

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For violating the norms for a second time, the licence is suspended for three years and for a third time, the licence is permanently cancelled. He was scheduled to fly AI's Delhi to London flight.

On January 19 a year ago, Kathpalia commandeered the Delhi-Bengaluru flight AI 174 without going through the mandatory breathalyser test.

Following this, he was removed from the post of executive director (operations) but was later appointed to the post of director (operations) in Air India Ltd for a period of five years.

Captain Kathpalia now faces a three-year ban from operating commercial jetliners in accordance with DGCA directives. According to airline sources, the pilot has been grounded for three months, during which he will undergo a refresher counselling session.

Any crew member who tests positive in the pre-flight medical check or refuses to take a breath-analyser test is required to be taken off flying duty for at least four weeks and the airline is required to initiate disciplinary proceedings. When he landed in Delhi later in the day, he went to the AI pre-flight medical examination room and made a false entry in the pre-flight breath-analyzer examination register for the flight he had operated, the ICPA letter alleged, adding it had gathered CCTV footage as evidence of the act.

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