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After Facing Backlash, Air India Holds Back Appointment of Sacked Pilot as Regional Director

Representative image of an Air India airplane.

Representative image of an Air India airplane.

Aviation regulator DGCA had last year suspended Arvind Kathpalia's flying license after he failed pre-flight alcohol tests.

New Delhi: Air India on Tuesday evening held back its earlier order of appointing controversial pilot Arvind Kathpalia as its Regional Director. The decision came hours after the pilots' association condemned the "elevation of a tainted official".

"The notification ...assigning charge of the post of Regional Director (Northern Region) to Captain Arvind Kathpalia is kept in abeyance till further order," the airline order said.

Kathpalia, who was sacked from the position of Director of Operations after failing an alcohol test in November last year, was appointed as regional director for the northern region earlier on Tuesday.

"Consequent to the retirement of Mr. Pankaj Kumar, Regional Director (Northern Region) after the close of the working hours of 30th April, 2019, Capt. Arvind Kathpalia will take over the charge of the post of Regional Director (Northern Region) with effect from May 1, 2019," the official order had said.

Aviation regulator DGCA had last year suspended Kathpalia's flying license after he failed pre-flight alcohol tests. Kathpalia had tested positive for alcohol in two breath analyser (BA) tests before he was to fly Air India's New Delhi-London flight on November 11 last year.

Following the DGCA's suspension of the pilot for three years, the Civil Aviation Ministry issued an order to remove Kathpalia from the position of Director (Operations). However, a week later, Air India posted Captain Kathpalia as Executive Director.

As per the provision of Rule 24 of the Aircraft Rules, no crew member of a flight, including pilots and engineers, should take or use "any alcoholic drink, sedative, narcotic or stimulant drug or preparation" within twelve hours of the commencement of the flight or in the course of the flight.

Clarifying the sacked pilot's appointment, Air India spokesperson Dhananjay Kumar said, "Arvind Katpalia has been given the Director of Northern Region post in accordance with law. Earlier, he was executive director and regional director is equivalent to his previous post.

Condemning Kathpalia's "promotion", the union of AI pilots said, "Top officials are bending backwards to elevate a tainted official. He's been made in-charge of NR where he'll be able to intimidate people who gave statements in police inquiry."

The Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA) further said that the move proves that "people with strong political connections can get away with any crime". "A person who has broken the law & has chargesheet pending against him cannot take disciplinary action against other employees. ICPA strongly condemns this," they said.

first published:April 30, 2019, 23:12 IST