New Delhi: Aviation regulator DGCA on Sunday said it was temporarily suspending breath analyser alcohol test for all aviation personnel, including the pilots, hours after an Air India union made the request saying these tests could aid the spread of coronavirus.
The decision came hours after SpiceJet said that one of its pilots, who did not fly any international flight in March, has tested positive for the virus.
The DGCA said in its order that due to the “extraordinary” circumstances over COVID-19 and directions issued by high courts in Delhi and Kerala, the breath analyser tests for “all aviation personnel” were temporarily suspended “at all airports till further orders”.
“Every aviation personnel, who is reporting for duty, is required to submit an undertaking in respect of the fact that he or she is not under the influence of alcohol and that he or she has not consumed alcohol/psychoactive substance in last 12 hours from the time of reporting for duty,” the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) stated.
The regulator noted that if the undertaking submitted by the aviation personnel is violated, his or her license or approval will be suspended for a period of three years.
It also said that airlines should carry out random checks for pilots and cabin crew members to ensure the compliance of Section 24 of Aircraft Rules, 1937, which talks about prohibition on consumption of psychoactive substances by aviation personnel.
As per the rules, all aviation personnel such as pilots, ground handling staff and air traffic controllers have to undergo breath analyser (BA) tests from time to time.
Earlier in the day, the Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA) had told the DGCA through a letter that “continuing BA Tests in these circumstances is extremely dangerous” as the machine for the test remains the same and droplets or aerosols of infected pilots may infect the healthy.
The letter from the ICPA, which is a union of Air India’s pilots who fly on domestic routes and short-haul international routes, came after SpiceJet said one of its pilots has tested positive for the virus.
However, carriers such as Air India, IndiGo and SpiceJet have been permitted by the DGCA to fly special flights to transport test kits, medicines, relief materials and Indians coming from abroad for quarantine.