DGCA temporarily suspends flying licence of Air India operations head

The DGCA suspended captain A. K. Kathpalia’s licence for failing to undertake breath analyser test before a domestic flight on January 19


Rule 24 of Aircraft Rules prohibits crew members from taking any alcoholic drink 12 hours prior to the commencement of a flight and it is mandatory for them to undergo an alcohol test both before and after operating a flight. Photo: HT
Rule 24 of Aircraft Rules prohibits crew members from taking any alcoholic drink 12 hours prior to the commencement of a flight and it is mandatory for them to undergo an alcohol test both before and after operating a flight. Photo: HT

New Delhi: Acting tough, the aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Wednesday suspended the flying licence of Air India operations head captain A. K. Kathpalia for skipping mandatory pre-flight medical test repeatedly.

The action comes within a week of the national carrier taking Kathpalia, a senior executive pilot, off flying duties. Interestingly, Kathpalia—who is the executive director (operations)—has been selected for a board level position at Air India pending final approval.

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The DGCA has now suspended the licence for failing to undertake breath analyser test, either before or after operating a domestic flight on 19 January. In an order, the regulator said that in public interest, “the privileges of the pilot licence held by captain A. K. Kathpalia (Airline Transport Pilot Licence) ATPL No.1330” is being suspended for three months. The suspension “shall be endorsed on his licence”, the order issued by DGCA Joint Director Lalit Gupta said.

In this context, endorse refers to mentioning about the particular action in the personal records of the violator. The suspension would be effective from 7 February—the day when he was taken off from flying duties by the airline after directions from the DGCA.

There was no response from Air India to queries in this regard. Sources at the airline said the five-member committee, set up to probe allegations of violations against Kathpalia, has submitted its report to the DGCA.

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DGCA officials were not available for comments. The Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA) had complained that Kathpalia had evaded pre-flight medical test on several occasions. Rule 24 of Aircraft Rules prohibits crew members from taking any alcoholic drink 12 hours prior to the commencement of a flight and it is mandatory for him or her to undergo an alcohol test both before and after operating a flight.

Any crew member who tests positive in the pre-flight medical check or refuses to take a breath-analyser test is to be taken off flying duty for at least four weeks and the airline is required to initiate disciplinary proceedings. In the case of violation for the first time, the licence is suspended for three months and three years if the offence is repeated.

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