The Indian Commercial Pilots' Association (ICPA) on 11 September penned a letter to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) seeking a clarification on the suspension of suspending licences of 132 pilots and 400 cabin crew of Air India.
Earlier, the DGCA had found 132 pilots and 434 cabin crew of Air India to have allegedly skipped the mandatory pre and post-flight alcohol test this year, and consequently face the prospect of being grounded.
In this regard, ICPA General Secretary Capt. T. Praveen Keerthi addressed the issue in a letter to DGCA Director General B.S. Bhullar, categorically stating that every single pilot of the afore-mentioned 132 had undergone the breath analyser test at the final port of termination, and added that none of them refused or attempted to evade the post-flight breath analyser examination.
" The Air India management did not provide a medical facility at the transit stations as the DGCA CAR was interpreted to carry out post flight medical after completion of the flight, putting the onus between the management of Air India and DGCA and not on the pilots or crew members," the letter noted.
Citing Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR) Section 5 - Air Safety Series F Part III Issue III, effective from August 4, 2015, the ICPA sought clarification on why the DGCA official in charge of Air Safety did not conduct any audit for the past two years.
Further, coming down heavily on the Joint Director General's, Lalit Gupta, 'doubtful' past credentials, the representation highlighted that there is no provision in the CAR to suspend licences in a phased manner, and said any pilot failing the breath analyser test is taken off flying duties immediately.
"Why has Lalit Gupta taken data of only two flights (Kuwait-Goa-Chennai) (Dubai-Goa-Bangalore) from the entire network of Air India, that too recent past three months and not from the CAR effective date of August 4, 2015. Apart from these two flights which are singled out, there are at least three more flights in Air India Network which are not considered by DGCA- Sharjah - Trivandrum - Chennai; Shanghai - Delhi - Mumbai; Hong Kong - Delhi - Mumbai," the ICPA questioned.
"We would also like to know why no doctors are present at international stations to perform breath analyzer test for any Indian carriers, are senior officials working in connivance with private carriers to save their cost as we strongly believe PFM should be done before a flight and not at first or second port of landing in India after a flight endangering the safety of innocent flying passengers," it added.
Assuring compliance of the pilots as per management's instructions, the ICPA re-iterated that all these pilots had undertaken the post-flight breath analyser test after the completion of flight, requesting consideration of the same.
"Despite the facts provided above, if DGCA still contemplates on suspending the licences of these 132 pilots, then all pilots involved in other similar transit route patterns must also be suspended along with these pilots, all at the same time, including Quick return flights from abroad since August 4 2015, the date the CAR was effective," the chamber urged.