Air India pilot loses licence after failing breath test


NEW DELHI: A veteran pilot had his flying licence revoked Monday (Nov 12) after failing a breath test moments before captaining an Air India plane to London, India’s aviation regulator said.

Arvind Kathpalia, a pilot and senior executive with the national airline, blew positive for alcohol before entering the Dreamliner jet’s cockpit for the nearly 10-hour flight to the United Kingdom on Sunday.

“He failed the breath analyser and as per rules we have decided to cancel his licence for three years with immediate effect,” an official with the Directorate General of Civil Aviation told AFP.

He said Kathpalia was handed a three-month ban in 2017 for skipping a mandatory alcohol breath test.

READ: Emergency evacuation: Indian flyer mistakes exit door for loo

All pilots and crew are barred from consuming alcohol in the 12 hours before their flying duties and are subject to regular breath tests.

Kathpalia has denied the allegations, describing them as a smear campaign levelled by rivals, local media reported.

More than 150 pilots from different Indian airlines have failed breath tests for alcohol in the past four years, the government said in response to a 2018 freedom of information request.

Indian airlines have made headlines this year for all the wrong reasons.

In October, an Air India flight attendant was injured after she fell off a parked aircraft at Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport. 

In September, a cockpit mix-up left more than 30 passengers on a Jet Airways flight bleeding from their ears and noses after the crew forgot to flick a switch regulating cabin air pressure.

READ: Drunken man removed from Indian plane after trying to enter cockpit to charge phone: Report

Several days later, a drunken passenger was removed from an IndiGo India flight after he attempted to enter the cockpit to charge his phone.

India’s aviation safety record tumbled this year, slipping from 66 per cent to 57 per cent on a ranking system kept by the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organisation. A perfect safety rating score is 100 per cent.

India’s aviation sector has surged in recent years, with nearly 120 million domestic passengers taking to the skies in 2017, almost double the figure in 2012.

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