Thu, Apr 13, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Drunk pilots could face criminal charges

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

After two separate incidents of pilots failing alcohol tests in the past month, members of the legislature’s Transportation Committee yesterday proposed filing criminal charges against pilots who are found under the influence of alcohol.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators Cheng Pao-ching (鄭寶清), Chao Cheng-yu (趙正宇) and Lin Chun-hsien (林俊憲) said that pilots who drink alcohol directly before reporting for duty should face criminal charges.

Cheng said he found it ironic that the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) would list the punishment for lightweight-aircraft pilots in the Civil Aviation Act (民航法) if they were found to intend to operate the aircraft under the influence of alcohol.

However, the penalties for pilots operating large civilian aircraft for the same offense is stipulated in the Aircraft Flight Operation Regulations (飛航作業管理規則), which are lower in legal status compared with the act, he said.

The CAA should consider amending the Civil Aviation Act, because drunk drivers can be charged for endangering public safety, Cheng said.

According to the CAA, airlines on average randomly test about one-third of their pilots when they report for duty, and airport officials randomly test about 3 percent to 5 percent of pilots.

The CAA should subject all pilots to alcohol testing when they report for work, Cheng and Chao said.

Lin said that an airline is to face a fine between NT$60,000 and NT$300,000 if one of its pilots fails an alcohol test, but the fine is too small.

The penalty should be 10 times more than that, he said.

CAA Director-General Lin Kuo-hsien (林國顯) said that pilots should not be under the influence of alcohol when they are on duty, including when they sign in, wait to get on an airplane, do preparatory work in the cockpit and fly an aircraft.

Airline ground crew and copilots should report if the captain is behaving strangely, as happened in a case in Canada recently, he said.

Lin said that the CAA is to meet with airline representatives within two weeks and will discuss proper ways to screen pilots for alcohol use.

Meanwhile, United Airlines’ forceful removal of a passenger from a US flight over his refusal to yield his seat was also the focus of the committee meeting.

Lawmakers said they were concerned that Taiwanese airlines might bump passengers off an overbooked flight in a similar way.

Lin said that no domestic airline has ever treated a passenger that way, adding that the CAA had only received three complaints related to overbooked flights.

Lin said that it is common for airlines to oversell flights to increase occupancy rates, particularly in peak travel seasons.

However, the CAA does not have data showing the number of seats that domestic airlines have oversold each year, he said.

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