The commander of a Delhi-bound Air India flight from Sharjah via Kochi was replaced and taken off duty after security personnel at the airport suspected the behaviour of the pilot and questioned him, only to find out that he was under the influence of alcohol, the Khaleej Times reported today.
He was also arrested briefly after the Saturday incident, due to which 120 passengers of Flight AI 934 faced a delay of three hours after the airline was asked to provide another pilot. The senior pilot was made to undergo a breath alyzer test and was found to be under the influence of alcohol, following which he was not allowed to fly the aircraft.
The report quoted a top official at the Sharjah Civil Aviation as saying that as part of its duty to protect the lives of passengers, the department took the preventive measure of not allowing the captain to pilot the flight.
"The security men at the airport suspected the behaviour of the pilot, and questioned him... He was not really drunk... but he was under the influence of alcohol," the official said.
"His blood sample proved that the percentage of alcohol content was high. So, we instructed the airline to replace the pilot immediately for ensuring the safety of the passengers," the official said, appreciating the cooperation of the airline and Indian authorities.
However, a senior executive of the airline requesting anonymity said that the captain was tested as part of a routine checkup on the airline crew.
"Not only him, the first officer, the in-flight supervisor, all of them underwent the checkup as a routine. But, apparently there was a slightly higher than the permissible content of alcohol in the case of the captain," the official said.
"He was detained during the test and after the results came positive, he was told he will not be allowed to fly and they also informed us to provide a substitute. After that he was let off with a warning. It did not become a police case, there was no FIR registered," he added.