Parliament: CAAS reviewing regulations and procedures after SIA pilot failed random alcohol test in Australia

A Singapore Airlines pilot was caught in Australia on Sept 15, 2018, for failing an alcohol test before a flight.
A Singapore Airlines pilot was caught in Australia on Sept 15, 2018, for failing an alcohol test before a flight.PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) is reviewing regulations and procedures, after a Singapore Airlines (SIA) pilot was caught in Australia for failing an alcohol test before a flight.

"Operating an aircraft while intoxicated is a serious matter. CAAS is reviewing the regulations and procedures to more strongly deter such behaviour," said Senior Minister of State for Transport Lam Pin Min.

He was replying to Mr Ang Wei Neng (Jurong GRC) who had asked if there had been cases in Singapore, in the last 10 years, of duty pilots caught consuming alcohol or drugs before their flights.

The SIA pilot, who has been suspended and is being investigated by CAAS, was caught on Sept 15 during a random check by Australia's civil aviation authority.

Dr Lam was also asked if there were adequate laws to deter such behaviour and whether all airlines operating out of Singapore airports have a sufficiently robust standard operating procedure to do random tests to detect such errant pilots.

He noted that while random blood testing is not conducted in Singapore, CAAS has conducted more than 900 ramp inspections since 2013 and not detected any signs of pilot intoxication.

Such inspections are done while an aircraft is on the ground, and typically entails the inspection of the flight crew's documents, their flight preparation and the aircraft itself.

Dr Lam said that most civil aviation regulators, including CAAS, hold airlines responsible for ensuring that their pilots do not fly a plane while intoxicated.

In the case of CAAS, it requires Singapore carriers to ensure that their pilots do not take any alcohol at least eight hours before a flight, wherever they operate in the world.

"Singapore also has strict rules for pilots who fly out of our airports, regardless of whether they are operating a Singapore- or foreign-registered aircraft," Dr Lam said.

Every pilot is responsible for ensuring that he or she does not operate a flight while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Doing so is an offence under the Air Navigation Order, and carries a maximum penalty of $100,000 and a jail term of up to five years.

CAAS records show there has not been any case of pilots consuming alcohol or drugs before boarding aeroplanes in Singapore, Dr Lam said.

To proactively identify and manage individuals that may have alcohol-related issues, Singapore carriers have set up peer support groups.

These support groups provide a non-punitive approach for pilots to seek support and treatment.

Said Dr Lam: "Such peer support groups are recognised internationally as an effective measure to identify such pilots at an early stage to rehabilitate them, or to remove them from flying duties where necessary."