Air India Pilot, Safety Director Was Drunk Before London-Bound Flight

Nov 12, 2018

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A senior pilot and safety director for Air India was found to be drunk before he was supposed to take the helm of a flight from New Delhi (DEL) to London (LHR) on Sunday.

The pilot, Arvind Kathpalia, failed two breathalyzer tests before Sunday afternoon’s flight AI 111 was scheduled for takeoff. It is unclear what the pilot’s blood alcohol level was. Kathpalia, who is also an operations director for the airline responsible for safety regulations, denied being intoxicated before his scheduled flight. He said he would contest the results of the breathalyzer test.

“It was 1:30pm in the afternoon, only a bloody stark raving alcoholic is bloody drunk at 1:30pm in the afternoon,” Kathpalia told Reuters. Passengers were delayed about one hour after Kathpalia was declared unfit to fly, the Independent says.

Sunday’s incident wasn’t Kathpalia’s first brush with suspected on-the-job intoxication. In 2017, he faced a three-month suspension for refusing to undergo a breathalyzer test before he was supposed to pilot a flight with Air India. As an operations director for the airline, Kathpalia is responsible for inflight safety training programs.

Furthermore, the Independent reports that a second Air India pilot was removed from his flight on Sunday for not undergoing the mandatory breathalyzer test before entering the cockpit. That unidentified co-pilot reportedly took the helm of flight AI 332 from DEL to Bangkok and was ordered to return to DEL a half-hour after taking off when authorities realized his blood alcohol level hadn’t been tested.

It is not unheard of for pilots to attempt to take the flight controls while intoxicated. Earlier in November, a Japan Airlines pilot pleaded guilty to having a blood alcohol level nearly 10 times the legal limit before he was scheduled to operate a flight from London to Tokyo. That 42-year-old pilot said in court that he had drunk two bottles of wine and a pitcher of beer the night before the flight,

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