Sharjah, May 17: In a major embarrassment, an Air India pilot was on Saturday, May 16, arrested in Sharjah, UAE, for reporting under the influence of alcohol.
The incident happened when the commander R Nanda, was caught in an inebriated condition, before his scheduled flight to Delhi via Kochi. [Air India grounds pilot, who delayed flight over 'dirty' oxygen mask in cockpit]
TOI reported that the Airbus A-320 Flight AI 934 took off at 4.35 pm, with 120 passengers onboard, more than three hours after the scheduled time, as another pilot had to be arranged at the last moment. [Air India pilots who fought inside cockpit of Jaipur-Delhi flight derostered]
A source told TOI, "The commander was waiting in the security check queue. The staff reportedly found him reeking of alcohol. He was told to undergo a breath analyser test and was found to be high. He was then arrested."
An AI spokesman confirmed, "the captain was not found fit to fly in Sharjah. He has been detained there." [Air India ‘forgets' to schedule pilots for London-Delhi Dreamliner]
The same captain, was the part of rescue operations of Indians stranded in Yemen, this year.
In India, a pilot can lose his license if he is caught flying in an inebriated state for the third time. Sources said that this was the third time that the captain was found to be drunk, minutes before operating an international flight. Nanda's name was recently recommended for the position of flight instructor (the senior most pilot in the airline).
UAE and most of the western countries have very strict aviation norms. The pilots and crew members are sent to jail, even if they are caught drunk for the first time.
In India, earlier too, pilots have been grounded for having high blood alcohol levels during pre-flight medical checks.
Aviation expert demands strict action
Following the incident, Aviation Expert Praful Bakshi on Sunday called for strict action by the aviation authorities. Bakshi said that it is a serious issue as the incident risked lives of many people.