Starting from the end of this month, random alcohol tests will be conducted on all pilots at Changi and Seletar airports to crack down on those who drink and fly.
Pilots who are found to be operating under the influence of alcohol may be fined up to S$50,000 or face imprisonment of up to two years, or both, for the first offence. Repeat offenders may be fined up to S$100,000 or get up to five years’ jail, or both.
The stringent measures were announced by the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) on Thursday (March 28). CAAS also stated that all five Singapore Air Operator Certificate (AOC) holders will have to implement an alcohol management programme by 1 May this year — to identify, manage and rehabilitate pilots with problematic use of alcohol.
The AOC holders are: Singapore Airlines (SIA), Jetstar Asia Airways, Scoot Tigerair, SilkAir (Singapore), ST Aerospace Engineering.
The programmes are expected to include confidential peer and self-reporting systems, to allow them to identify pilots with such problems. “Risk-based” alcohol tests will be performed randomly on pilots during anticipatory periods while rehabilitation involving healthcare professionals and peer-support networks will be established to help pilots steer away from alcohol while on duty.
Foreign airlines are also strongly encouraged to implement similar programmes, CAAS said.
The rules were enforced after the SIA flight incident that was cancelled due to the pilot’s failed alcohol test in September last year. Consequently, regulations were developed by the CAAS in consultation with the aviation community as well as initiatives taken by other airlines, pilot associations and unions.
Senior Minister of State for Transport Dr Lam Pin Min said in Parliament that the aviation regulator launched a review of its regulations to “more strongly deter such behaviour”.
The pilots on duty of flights selected for alcohol testing will undergo breathalyser tests. If they fail the portable breathalyser, they would go for the confirmatory test which provides a reading of the breath alcohol content.
The permitted limit has been “determined based on international best practices”, which is 0.02g of alcohol for every 210 litres of breath, according to CAAS.
“It is equivalent to a ‘zero tolerance’ standard, with a small allowance for the potential presence of alcohol in the breath due to other factors such as medication or mouthwash,” CAAS added.
If the test result shows that they have exceeded the limit, they will be removed from flight duties immediately and the airline will be notified.
CAAS’s director-general Kevin Shum said: “The safety of aircraft operations, passengers and crew on board is paramount. CAAS and the aviation community take a serious view of pilots operating aircraft under the influence of alcohol.
“The new alcohol testing and management programmes will help ensure that pilots’ ability to operate aircraft is not impaired by alcohol,” he assured.