Thursday, September 12, 2019

Are DGCA Rules Implementable?

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The aviation industry worldwide is all about safety and security and often has zero tolerance for lapses. As compared to other countries, India is far stricter in its aviation rules and medical clearances. And yet, the lapses are far too many and too often, endangering the lives of thousands of passengers. While the lapses that come most to light are those of the highest paid community in the aviation sector, the pilots, those of others will soon be on the radar too.

The most common misdemeanour is that of drinking. While breath analyser (BA) tests are carried out on pilots and cabin crew and even off-duty pilots who are in the cockpit as additional crew members, many are found slipping these high standards. According to media reports, in the first six months of 2019, 123 pilots and cabin crews failed the BA test. In 2018, the total numbers of crew members who failed the test was a whopping 256.

In fact, Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR) Section 5 which deals with Air Safety (Series F Part III) for flight crew says that “the level of blood alcohol compatible with safe flying is ‘Zero’, which is also recommended by ICAO. It is equally important to intensify the educational programme for crew members regarding the inherent dangers of flying after consumption of alcohol”.

The CAR also explains: “Alcohol also interferes with the enzymatic cellular process or oxidation, causes hypoxia and reduces individual’s tolerance with increase in altitude. It is known that a low alcohol blood level between 30 mg% to 50 mg% disturbs the sensor-motor, visual and cortical reaction. Consumption of alcohol results in significant deterioration of psychomotor performance and decreases the amount of mental capacity available to deal with many essential tasks involved in the conduct of safe flight. Should an emergency occur in-flight, the crew member under the influence of alcohol is not capable of dealing with the problem.”
While such strictness is valued and expected from flight crew, the DGCA has gone a step further and will now include aircraft maintenance engineers, flight dispatchers, air traffic controllers, machine operators and vehicle drivers working at airports under BA tests. All these personnel are important cogs that move the wheels of aviation and keep them well-oiled. Every minor and major job done by these backroom boys is critically important at the airport and for the safety of planes and passengers. Though these are the support staff for the flight crew, any failure on their part can jeopardise flight operations. How often have we read about drunk drivers hitting stationary planes and damaging parts worth crores. Or freak accidents caused at airports due to airport personnel not being fully alert.
11/09/19 Shobha John/India Legal

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