Not sober. That was how Captain Arvind Kathpalia was described after he tested positive for alcohol levels in his blood that would have floored a college drinking club master of the CH3CH2OH before an Air India flight AI-111 from Delhi to London.
The drunk was supposed to fly a 787 Dreamliner with about 300 passengers on board.
No doubt it was sobering for these 300 upon hearing their great and glorious chief aviator had been saved from himself by a simple puff into a plastic straw.
It’s the second time in less than two years that Kathpalia was apparently poegaai before a flight. Just to add insult to injury for South East Asian aviation buffs, Captain Kathpalia is also a board member at Air India and in charge of air operations.
The mid-afternoon flight was delayed while a stand-by pilot was called in, and Kathpalia is now shamed across the country. This should never have happened, he should have been removed from the roster a year ago when he crooked a breathalyser test and was caught red-handed on CCTV.
What must come as a bit of a shock is that (ex)-Captain Kathpalia was promoted into the position of overall command of Air India operations in January 2017. That was only two months before he was blotto in Delhi the first time around.
It’s a year later and he’s blotto again.
Worse news still, every year at least twenty pilots are grounded for failing the breathalyser test according to the Times of India.
It also reports while its a crime to drive under the influence in India, its not a crime to fly under the influence.
Yes, the aviation authorities can suspend you, but there is no criminal charge. Which is why pilots continue to try to fly while babelaas because they haven’t experienced the delights of Delhi or Mumbai correctional service system.
It’s only when you’re punished that you stop doing bad things. In South Africa you’re arrested as a driver and flung into penitentiary and that’s as a driver, while as a pilot a dronk gat aviator would be suspended immediately and probably lose his/her license.
As soon as we begin to fly as student pilots, the instructors are on the lookout for drug and alcohol abuse. They lean towards you before each flight, subtly checking your eyeballs and during the briefing, and reminding you that alcohol is a poison.
They tell you stories of the hippie from Durban who partook assiduously of a delicate herb and was last heard on radio reporting he was flying in an easterly direction out of Virginia Airport in heavy clouds and singing “No coastline no cry”.
Wreckage never located.
The little ditty pilots recite is “8 hours between bottle and throttle”.
According to FAA rules :
A pilot may not attempt to fly an aircraft or even attempt to be a crew member of a civil aircraft 1:
- Within 8 hours after consuming alcohol;
- While under the influence of alcohol;
- While under the influence of any drug that impairs a person in a way which is is contrary to safety;
- While having a blood alcohol concentration equal to or greater than 0.04 grams per decilitre of blood or grams of alcohol per 210 litres of breath.
Airlines can deny you boarding rights if you’re drunk AS A PASSENGER.
If you have six beers and then a few shooters, let say three, that amounts to a binge. This takes up to 72 hours to work out of your system fully. Yes, 8 hours later you are what appears to be sober, but the hangover you’re enduring is actually the alcohol slowly squeezing out of your body.
Imagine a pilot experiencing babelaas followed by moderate to severe turbulence.
(ex)-Captain Kathpalia was previously caught cheating the system in March 2017 when he was asked to breath into an “anayzer” and refused, leaping aboard his plane instead.
The Delhi to Bengaluru flight AI-174.
When he landed back in Delhi later that day, he entered the testing office and made a false entry in the log book but was caught on CCTV.
The Indian Pilots Union filed a complaint against Kathpalia and his possible bottle buddy, former joint Director General of Civil Aviation in India, Lalit Gupta, who appeared to cover for him during his hearing.
Eventually Kathpalia was suspended for 5 months, but miraculously Gupta and his ilk signed him back into the left-hand all powerful Captain’s chair and back into his job as head of Air Operations after a paltry three months.
Ja-nee, all you need is high friends in places.
Hangovers are not for pilots. The main symptoms of a hangover are exactly what you want to avoid as a passenger, let alone a pilot.
Drinking all night then trying to fly 300 people to another country is not just stupid, its criminal.
Hangovers cause mood swings, they cause a drop in blood sugar, dehydrate you, cause sleep deprivation, increases the heart rate and leads to a loss of focus.
It also causes shaking and a sensitivity to light. Dr. Lindsay Henderson who’s a psychologist quoted by Insider says hangovers include “dehydration and a drop in blood sugar, both of which have distinct physical symptoms that include dizziness, nausea, fatigue, muscle weakness, shaking, numbness, racing heart, and confusion.”
Not what Captain Biggles wants as she begins the steep descent into Nepal’s notoriously dangerous Lukla Airport in the Himalayas, throwing up into the little bag and shivering while wishing for hair of the dog.