After facing backlash over appointment of sacked Pilot as regional director, AI suspends decision
New Delhi, Apr 30: Hours after the controversial appointment of Air India pilot Arvind Kathpalia, whose flying licence was suspended in November 2018 after he failed pre-flight alcohol tests, as its Regional Director (Northern Region), the airline on Tuesday decided to keep the decision on hold.
The national carrier issued a notification early in the day stating that "Capt. Arvind Kathpalia will take over the charge of the post of Regional Director (Northern Region) with effect from May 1, 2019", consequent to the retirement of incumbent Pankaj Kumar.
The appointment drew flak from pilots' body ICPA which alleged that "top officials are bending backwards to elevate a tainted official". However, soon after, Air India issued another notification stating that: "The notification...assigning charge of the post of Regional Director (Northern Region) to Captain Arvind Kathpalia is kept in abeyance, till further orders".
No reason was cited for suspension of Kathpalia's appointment. Prior to it, an Air India spokesperson even issued a statement stating that the appointment of Arvind Kathpalia as Director Northern Region "is according to law".
"Earlier, he was Executive Director and Regional Director is equivalent to Executive Director," the spokesperson said. On November 11 last year, Kathpalia had tested positive for alcohol in two breath analyser (BA) tests before he was to fly Air India's New Delhi-London flight. The next day, aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) suspended his flying licence for three years, and on November 13, the Ministry of Civil Aviation issued an order to remove him from the position of Director, Operations.
However, a week later, he was posted as Executive Director by the Airline. Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA), which represents the pilots flying the narrow body aircraft of Air India, "strongly" condemned Kathpalia's appointment.
It said, "Top officials are bending backwards to elevate a tainted official. He’s been made in-charge of NR (Northern Region) where he will be able to intimidate people who had given statements in police enquiry. Disciplinary action against commanders come under RD-NR. It's ethically wrong."
The ICPA said:"A person who has broken the law and has charge sheet pending against him cannot take disciplinary action against other employees. ICPA strongly condemns this. We need justice. It's yet again proven people with strong political connections can get away with any crime." Kathpalia was taken off flying duties earlier too.
In February 2017, when he was working at the position of executive director of operations, his flying licence was suspended for three months on charges of skipping a pre-flight alcohol test. Consequently, he was removed from the post of executive director of operations. However, in March 2018, he was posted as Director of Operations.
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/her to undergo an alcohol test both before and after operating a flight.