Express News Service

BENGALURU: The proposal by the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to launch random testing of aviation personnel for consumption of psychoactive substances has left the aviation sector divided. While the managements involved have given a thumbs-up, airline staff insist that it puts them under unnecessary pressure and suspicion. 

The Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR) order was put up on its website on August 25 for feedback from all stakeholders, before it was made official.  The personnel will be tested for the following substances — Amphetamine, Methamphtamine, Cannabis, Cocaine, Opioids, Barbiturates, Benzodizipine, MMDA or Ecstasy. The order recommends mandatory testing of 5% of flight crew members, air traffic controllers, aircraft maintenance engineers, certifying staff, trainee pilots as well as instructors and examiners.

DGCA Director Arun Kumar told TNIE, “Testing for psychoactive substances is a common practice abroad. It is time we introduce it here too, as consumption of drugs is on the rise in the country. So we plan to introduce it bearing safety of public in mind.”

AAI Director at Belagavi, Rajesh Kumar Maurya, welcomed the move, saying it “a good one” which will enhance the safety of passengers.” The owner of a flying school too has welcomed it, saying, “It is very important from the point of passenger safety. However, those checking it must adopt the right method, and the process should not harass pilots and other staff.” 

Will add to stress: Capt Retired airline instructor pilot Capt Mohan Ranganathan says it will put pilots under additional pressure in the present circumstances. Drawing a parallel with the breathalysers tests being done at present, he recalled a top official of an airline getting caught and getting away with it. “There are always loopholes. Those with influence get away with everything.”

Referring to the present situation, Capt Ranganathan said pilots are working under pressure due to delayed salaries and even cut in salaries. “There is also a possibility that medicines prescribed  for other illnesses could have some components which could show up during these tests,” he said. 

A senior pilot, on anonymity, said the move would put the fraternity under pressure. “This would clearly breach the trust between the regulator and pilots. The pilot is the commander of the flight and needs to be treated with respect and dignity, and not viewed with suspicion,” he said.