DGCA may ground over 130 pilots, 430 crew members of Air India

Amidst a sale process of Air India initiated by the government, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) is likely to ground over 130 pilots and 430 cabin crew of the national carrier for allegedly skipping the mandatory pre and post-flight alcohol test.

These crew members have been "evading" the breath analyser tests for to-and-fro flights to certain destinations such as Singapore, Kuwait, Bangkok, Ahmedabad and Goa, for over a long period of time, reports close to the airline sources said.

The aviation regulator has already served an ultimatum on Air India management over the alleged safety violations by the airline's crew members ahead of an enforcement action, they said.

As per the DGCA safety regulations, all on-flight airline crew, including pilots and cabin attendants, have to undergo a mandatory breath analyser test before and after flights.

Aircraft rules prohibit crew members from taking any alcoholic drink 12 hours prior to the commencement of a flight.

According to the DGCA, 132 pilots and 434 cabin crew of Air India have evaded the mandatory breath analyser test, which is to be taken both before and after operating a flight, for an extended period.

The DGCA, which has brought this to the notice of the airline management, is now expected to take suitable action against these crew members.

While it is not known what action the regulator is expected to take, reports said, DGCA is likely to enforce action gradually as the grounding of such a large number of crew members could cripple the airline's operations.

DGCA had, in February, suspended the flying licence of Air India's then executive director for operations, Arvind Kathpalia, for three months after an internal probe found him "guilty" of skipping the breath analyser test for one particular flight.

Kathpalia is now head of operations and a board member at the divestment-bound Air India.

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.

As per DGCA, 224 pilots and crew members of various airlines failed the test in 2016, whereas 202 pilots and crew members failed the test in 2015.