The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has withdrawn the license of three Nigerian pilots who allegedly took alcohol when they were about to operate their flights.
According to sources, aviation experts frown on this because it infringes on safety. Besides, it is one of the critical rules that must be obeyed by pilots. A pilot is prohibited from taking alcohol three hours before flight time.
THISDAY spoke to some pilots and other experts in the industry who confirmed that prohibition of alcohol intake shortly before flight was clearly stated in their licences as one of the things a pilot must not do three hours before fight.
They consequence they said could be plane crash or a major incident. It was learnt that if a pilot is caught with alcohol during random testing at the ramp, his license is withdrawn but how long the pilot would be made not to fly is discretionary.
But a seasoned pilot and presently aircraft inspector told THISDAY that the NCAA should go further than withdrawing the pilots’ licences to find out why they took to alcohol, pointing out that the pilots might have taken to drinking due to stress, frustration, family problem or even depression.
He recalled the tragic incident of Germanwings Flight 9525, where a depressed pilot crashed the plane with all the passengers.
The pilot admitted however, that it is rare to see pilots with alcohol in their breath, because it is a major offence but blamed the airline for not testing the pilots before the regulatory body did and suggested that the airlines involved should also be sanctioned.
“Such incident is very, very rare but very irresponsible. Some pilots are actually drunkards but they don’t drink during flight. There is need to investigate to know the root cause of the drinking. NCAA did the right thing but it should not only end in withdrawing their license; that is what those who don’t have intrinsic interest in the industry do; they should investigate it further,” the pilot suggested.
He also noted that without the finding the drinking could have resulted in an accident and if the incident was not investigated further the situation could degenerate.
“If it is stress, family problem or whatever, the person ought not to come to work, but I must tell you that operators (airlines) mount so much pressure on the pilots, so the operators should be fined for not detecting this before NCAA did. But NCAA, I must say, did a good job but they should go further to find out the root cause of their problem that led them to take alcohol while on duty.”