Drinking and flying is the obvious next step once you get tired of drinking and driving, right?
Quartz India has recently released a report outlining a serious problem emerging in Indian airports lately, but more specifically in the past year. According to the study, pilots have been struggling to keep their hands off the bottle before they take to the skies.
The Ministry of Civil Aviation provided data showing that in the last 3 years, 2015 was the worst in terms of pilots virtually showing up to work drunk. Considering how strict and severe (and rightly so) the punishments are for flying under the influence of alcohol, it’s a bit baffling that 43 different pilots would get caught doing it in the span of one year, with a frightening majority of them coming from IndiGo and Jet Airways, India’s first and second largest airline carriers.
After being caught the first time, the pilot will have his license suspended for 3 months, a punishment that, frankly, seems ridiculously lenient. After a second offense, the stakes are raised a bit higher, keeping the pilot out of the skies for three years, a long enough time to make one seriously ponder the important things in life.
Finally, a third violation will lead to the revoking of the pilot’s license altogether, although getting to this point likely means the pilot has much more serious shit he should probably sift through before he even considers reapplying for his license.
While these violations can affect a pilot’s standing in the aviation community, a second violation normally leads to termination from the company anyways, despite being allowed to hold on to your license until being reinstated.
Since 2013, 109 pilots have tested positive for alcohol during pre-flight evaluations. Of those 109, a staggering 63 pilots came from IndiGo and Jet Airways, a troubling number for any airline company. After the release of this information, IndiGo responded in typical corporate fashion by releasing a statement that barely touched the surface of the information that was presented to them, and “subtly” highlighted their areas of success in terms of aviation safety.
We have an education program for crew members, which highlights the issues on use of alcohol and drugs. The response to this program has been positive. Further, flight crew members before joining IndiGo undergo drug testing and during line operations the drug testing is carried out on a random basis. No crew has tested positive for any drug abuse during random checking.
This seems like a pretty important issue to manage, especially when considering the rapid growth of air travel in India and the country’s push to become the third largest country in terms of air travel. While currently only servicing 190 million passengers yearly, India is expected to be home to roughly 370 million flyers by 2020, an estimation based off of current population growth and increased affordability of plane tickets.
Despite the rigorous tests and procedures in place to prevent any inebriated flying, it’s frightening to think that this has happened 43 times in 2015, and still continues to happen today, 16 times so far in 2016 already. One aviation expert expressed his shock at the number of pilots that have been stopped in the last few years. “I am at a loss for words. This is completely unacceptable behavior and needs to be eliminated ruthlessly. Here, we are talking about someone who is responsible for human lives both in the aircraft and on the ground. A tiny error of judgement can cause irreparable damage.”
Until things settle down, it might be a good idea to start taking trains rather than short, domestic flights.