Fifty-six airline pilots fail alcohol tests in India

Fifty-six pilots working for Indian airlines have failed alcohol tests in the last two years, according to a list issued by the civil aviation ministry.

Ten pilots were fired after they failed tests, including one who was found over the limit on two occasions, according to the list released by Aviation Minister Vayalar Ravi in parliament on Thursday.

The fifty-six pilots worked for the state-owned national carrier Air India, as well as private airlines Jet Airways, Indigo, SpiceJet, GoAir, and Kingfisher.

Twenty-three pilots from India's top airline company Jet Airways failed their tests, but the airline did not sack any of them, putting them on suspension and subjecting them to a pay cut instead.

The list of pilots was issued a day after two pilots were found flying passenger planes with forged qualifications, deepening concerns about safety on India's booming airlines.

India's Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) drafted regulations recently, stipulating that pilots arriving to work drunk would be grounded for three months for a first offence and lose their flying licence after a second.

No more such cases have emerged since the DGCA's regulations came into effect in December 2010.

Rising incomes and the liberalisation of the airline market in the 1990s has led to an explosion in air travel in India, with passenger numbers up 25 per cent over the last 12 months.

With new routes and new aircraft being regularly inducted, the half-dozen low-cost Indian airlines are competing fiercely for locally trained pilots. Many employ foreign pilots, often from eastern Europe.