Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Increase drug and drink tests for pilots

From News.com.au:  Increase drug and drink tests for pilots

AIRLINES should test their own pilots and crews for drugs and alcohol more often, an analyst said yesterday, after the Civil Aviation Safety Authority said it "can't be everywhere at once". 
CASA figures show 45 airline crew members have tested positive over the past four years, with the latest being a female senior Qantas pilot who was taken off her plane last week when her co-pilot noticed her unsteady appearance while the plane was readying for take-off.

But CASA said yesterday it didn't have the capacity to test every airline employee before every flight.
Spokesman Peter Gibson said the authority conducted thousands of tests every year but "the numbers of positive tests are very, very small".

"You're down to around 45 positive tests from 54,000, so around 0.08 per cent, which provides no real indication that there's a widespread problem," he said.

"While the tests we conduct are very stringent, obviously we can't ensure that all pilots are tested before each flight."

On August 30, cabin crew aboard a noon Qantas flight from Sydney to Brisbane noticed the female pilot was unsteady. The crew notified Qantas operations, who told the flight to return. A replacement pilot was found.
It is believed the captain was breathalysed and is now withheld from duties on full pay while the event is investigated.

While pilots are intermittently tested by CASA, the authority said it relied on airlines to conduct their own drug and alcohol tests when possible. It is believed the standard blood-alcohol limit for pilots is 0.02 per cent.
A senior aviation analyst who declined to be named said CASA should be more transparent regarding the type of aviation employees who had tested positive. "These pilots are very well paid and hold the lives of hundreds of passengers in their hands," they said.


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