Pilots and air traffic controllers in India will be screened for consumption of drugs and psychoactive substances as part of a regulatory drive to improve safety. Apart from random screening, the tests will also be carried out prior to hiring and after accidents.
Pilots and cabin crew undergo pre-flight breath analyser test for alcohol. Last year, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) extended the test to cover ground personnel, engineers and air traffic controllers as well.
To bring Indian regulations in line with global standards, the DGCA has proposed random testing of pilots and air traffic controllers for drugs and opioids. The DGCA released draft rules for testing procedure on Friday.
Random tests will be carried out under the supervision of DGCA officers by laboratories authorised by the regulator. These random tests will cover 10 per cent employees of each airline in one year. In the first phase, flight crew and air traffic controllers in Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad will be screened.
The tests would consist of a screening test and a confirmatory test. The screening test will be carried out at the airport or the ATC complex and will be recorded on video.
An employee who tests positive will be removed from sensitive duties till a report of the confirmatory test is received. The employee would have to undergo rehabilitation if confirmatory test is positive and can return to active duties following clearance from a psychiatrist and chief medical officer of the organisation.
Second-time offenders will lose their licence. A medical review officer will be appointed to review the results before taking action on the person involved.
“We are trying to fill a gap, as currently, we do not regulate the use of psychoactive substances in the industry. With this, we are trying to align ourselves to the highest standards laid down by the International Civil Aviation Organisation and other regulators. We are convinced that this will further improve our safety standards,” said director general of civil aviation Arun Kumar.
Kumar said the proposed rules are similar to those prescribed by the US Federal Aviation Administration and the European Aviation Safety Agency.
Europe introduced rules for screening pilots for psychoactive substances in 2018 following the Eurowings crash of 2015 which killed 150.
Accident investigators concluded that co pilot Andreas Lubitz locked the captain out of cockpit and deliberately flew the Airbus A320 aircraft into the Alps. Prosecutors concluded that Lubitz was suffering from mental disorder with psychotic symptoms that led to suicidal thoughts and he had concealed his illness from his employer.