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Scrutiny
  
They listened to us, in part
The recent decision of the DGCA to imprison drunken pilots is something that we suggest a year back, but DGCA needs to read us again, properly!
08/12/2011

At last, the Indian aviation ministry did it. After much talk and criticism, the ministry has decided to inculcate a policy of zero tolerance on safety issues through a new set of rules for punishing drunk pilots. As per recent amendments to the Aircraft Act’s Rule 24, drunk pilots will now face one year jail or fine up to Rs.5 lakh instead of just being prohibited from operating their flight if they fail in pre-flight breath tests. Interestingly, this amendment came after an year of B&E’s Scrutiny article titled “Drunk pilots should be jailed” (B&E issue dated 30/09/2010), in which imprisonment was demanded for all drunk pilots.

Earlier, tipsy pilots would get suspended for three months if they were found drunk for the first time and would be suspended forever for the second time. But this rule had many loopholes. We mentioned in our previous article, “In spite of alcohol tests being mandatory, airlines take a lenient stance to keep the schedules of flights intact”. Even though drunk pilots would like to claim that they did not break any law as they had been caught before take off, no leniency should be entertained from pilots or airlines.

We would also like to applaud the decision of the aviation ministry to make drinking before flights a legal offence for pilots with criminal culpability. In addition to that, the law has also empowered DGCA to take criminal action. But still, our demand has not been fulfilled completely. The law should be amended to include post-flight breath tests also as we highlighted in our story, “Till now, the DGCA has been monitoring pilots through breath analysers before the flight, without keeping a check on whether the pilot drinks during the flight”. In closed cockpits, that is very much a possibility. So the ministry still needs to go another step beyond their current “zero tolerance” level on aviation safety!

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