Last updated: 09:33 PM ET, Sun May 17 2015

Report: Air India Pilot Suspended for Showing Up Drunk to Flight

Impacting Travel | Michael Isenbek | May 17, 2015

Report: Air India Pilot Suspended for Showing Up Drunk to Flight

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An Air India (AI) commander was slated to fly a Sharjah, United Arab Emirates-to-India flight on Saturday, but was instead suspended for showing up to his waiting aircraft completely drunk, The Times of India (TOI) reported.

Apparently this isn’t the first time the unidentified pilot got soused before work. According to the TOI, this is the third time he failed a pre-flight breathalyzer test.

An anonymous source told the TOI  that Sharjah’s civil aviation authority will be sending a report to India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). And the source said, “Since he has been reportedly found 'heavily intoxicated,' DGCA may have no option but to suspend his flying license for five years, which almost means he cannot fly as a pilot ever again in an Indian airline."

The TOI said the rules were just relaxed — a five-year suspension used to be the penalty after the second instance of drunkenness.

A spokesman for AI told the Hindustan Times, “The captain was not fit to fly. We arranged another pilot to operate the Sharajah-Cochin-Delhi flight. The pilot has been detained for questioning. He was smelling of liquor. An inquiry is on.”

Aviation expert Rajji Rai pointed out to the Hindustan Times how unusual India’s handling of drunk pilots is relative to other countries. "It’s only in India that a pilot is let off multiple times after being caught drunk. In most Western countries, the crew is sent straight to jail after being caught drunk the very first time. Lives of hundreds of passengers are at stake if the person in command of the aircraft is drunk.” 

To his credit, the pilot was recently honored for conducting flights to rescue Indians from Yemen under the banner of Operation Raahat.

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