Random checks catch 99 tipsy Indian pilots since 2011

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Random pre-flight safety checks have caught 99 tipsy pilots since 2011, India's aviation minister told parliament on Monday.

The revelation could fuel questions about airline discipline and whether safety procedures in the country’s fast-growing industry need to be tightened further.

“Since 2011, a total of 99 pilots, including the 10 (so far this year), have been grounded for testing positive in pre-flight medical examination for alcohol consumption,” aviation minister G.M. Siddeshwara told parliament.

But India is not the only country whose airline staff have been found to be flouting rules.

The Daily Telegraph reported that around 50 airline workers employed in safety sensitive roles by Qantas and Virgin tested positive for drugs or alcohol in a year.

The tests were conducted by the Australian airlines on its pilots, cabin crew, engineers, refuellers, pit crew and baggage handlers with access to aircraft.

India's aviation safety record

India has a chequered past when it comes to implementing aviation safety rules.

In 2011, the airline sector was shaken by a scandal over a number of unqualified Indian pilots flying on fake licences.

In March, an Indian pilot and flight crew were suspended for putting aviation safety in jeopardy when they performed a Bollywood dance high in the air.

The US Federal Aviation Administration stripped the country of its top safety rating in January, citing a lack of safety oversight. It downgraded India’s aviation safety rating to category two from category one, putting it in the company of such countries as Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and Indonesia.

Sources: AFP, The Daily Telegraph