New Delhi: Air India has appointed a pilot, whose flying licence had earlier been suspended for failing pre-flight alcohol tests, as the regional director of Northern Region in the state-run airline, an official document said on Tuesday. "Consequent to the retirement of Mr Pankaj Kumar, Regional Director (Northern Region) after the close of the working hours of April 30, 2019, Capt. Arvind Kathpalia will take over the charge of the post of Regional Director (Northern Region) with effect from May 1, 2019," said an Air India notification.
Kathpalia's flying licence was suspended in November last year after he had tested positive for alcohol in two breath analyser (BA) tests before he was to fly an Air India flight from New Delhi to London. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had then suspended his flying licence for three years and two days later, the Ministry of Civil Aviation had issued an order to remove him from the position of Director, Operations.
However, Kathpalia was back in service within a week and took the charge of Executive Director of Air India.
Kathpalia has been taken off flying duties earlier in February 2017 as well when he was serving as the executive director of operations. At the time, his licence had been suspended for three months for skipping a pre-flight alcohol test.
He was removed from the post of executive director of operations at that time as well but was reinstated again as Director of Operations in March 2018.
"Appointment of Arvind Kathpalia as Director Northern Region is according to law. Earlier, he was Executive Director and Regional Director is equivalent to Executive Director," an Air India spokesperson said.
Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA), which is a union that represents pilots flying the narrow-body aircraft of Air India, strongly condemned Kathpalia's appointment.
"Top officials are bending backwards to elevate a tainted official. He's been made in-charge of NR (Northern Region) where he will be able to intimidate people who had given statements in the police enquiry. Disciplinary action against commanders come under RD-NR. It's ethically wrong," it said.
"A person who has broken the law and charge sheet pending against him cannot take disciplinary action against other employees. ICPA strongly condemns this. We need justice. It's yet again proven people with strong political connections can get away with any crime," the ICPA said.
Rule 24 of the Aircraft Rules prohibits crew members from partaking any alcoholic drink 12 hours prior to the commencement of a flight, and it is mandatory for him/her to undergo an alcohol test both before and after operating a flight.
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