Air India pilot grounded after being caught drunk before takeoff for the 2nd time

New Delhi: An Air India flight from Delhi to London was delayed after the pilot of the carrier was grounded after he was found unfit to fly. Passengers of the Air India flight AI 111 to London were left stranded at the Delhi airport.

The flight was delayed as the senior pilot and Director (Operations) Arvind Kathpalia failed the pre-flight breath analysis test for alcohol. The test deemed him unfit to fly.

Air India had to call another pilot to replace him and operate the flight which departed after a delay of 55 minutes, causing inconvenience to passengers, an airline source said.

“We have grounded Captain A K Kathpalia as he failed twice in the breath analyser test. He was to operate the London flight from New Delhi, but he failed to clear the pre-flight alcohol test,” a senior airline official told news agency PTI.

“He was given another chance, but the second test was also found positive following which he was grounded,” the official said.

Rule 24 of the Aircraft Rules prohibits crew members from partaking any alcoholic drink 12 hours prior to the commencement of a flight, and it is mandatory for him or her to undergo an alcohol test both before and after operating a flight.

Sources in Air India have said that Kathpalia is a repeat offender. The flying licence of the senior pilot was suspended for three months in 2017 for allegedly skipping a mandatory pre-flight medical test.

The prescribed punishment for such offences under the DGCA rules is suspension of flying licence for three months in case of the first breach.

For violating the norms for the second time, the licence is suspended for three years and for a third time, the licence is permanently cancelled.

He was appointed as the executive director of operations, a decision which was challenged by a pilot’s association in the Delhi High Court. He was subsequently removed from the post.

However, he was later appointed to the post of director (operations) in Air India Ltd for a period of five years.

A senior official at the DGCA said that a decision on Kathpalia’s flying licence is expected to be taken on Monday.

“This is the second time Captain Kathpalia has been caught while trying to fly under influence of alcohol. He had earliest to forge entry while arrival at Delhi in Bangalore Delhi flight last year,” said KVJ Rao ex-general secretary of Cabin Crew Association.

History of misdemeanours

Kathpalia has previously been under investigation. He was suspended from flying for three months in February 2017. In August 2018, a Delhi court directed the police to lodge an FIR against the Air India pilot for alleged violation of Aircraft Rules, tampering with evidence and intimidating a doctor working with the airlines in January 2017.

According to the complaint filed by Indian Pilots Association, on January 19, 2017, Kathpalia was scheduled to operate a flight from New Delhi to Bengaluru and he proceeded to operate the flight without undergoing the mandatory pre-flight breath analyser test.

Later, even at Bengaluru, he refused to undergo a similar test.

When he returned to New Delhi, he allegedly went to the pre-flight medical examination room and made a false entry in the pre-flight breath analyser examination register for the flight he had operated.

Kathpalia also issued threats and intimidated Dr Nitin Seth, DDCA’s doctor on duty, coercing him to retract his statement given in inquiry conducted by the DGCA, where he had alleged that the Captain had manipulated the record in the register.

It was also alleged that there was a violation of Aircraft Rules apart from tampering of evidence, coercive intimidation.

“Delhi High Court had passed strictures against him and Air India for not taking proper action against him. Last week the magistrate court in Andheri, Mumbai had ordered to register an FIR against him for missing breathe analyser tests and forgery of documents, cheating the company, endangering life and personal safety of passengers. Last year when he was caught, his license was suspended for three months, now the license will be suspended for five years. Air India has to dismiss him to avoid such situations,” said KVJ Rao

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