Pilot, Alcohol and Pakistani Authorities: What will happen?

The culture of alcoholism among commercial pilots on the rise!!

The pilot’s job, hours, and working conditions lead to fatigue, which is often “treated” with a drink of something to “relax.” A pilot is in a unique situation where he/she is often isolated, and removed from familiar surroundings that may lead to an increased urge to drink out of boredom or loneliness.

In Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), it is an over going issue where drinking alcohol has become very controversial; quite a few flight crew members are indulged in drinking alcohol, some within limits and some go overboard to cross them. Since alcohol is banned in Pakistan there is no such limit defined in the Pakistani law.

Here are a few incidents where PIA pilots were caught drinking alcohol:

  • Captain Jawed Muzzafar, a very senior B-747 pilot was heavily drunk on a flight from Paris to Islamabad. He was witnessed by one of the passengers and later dismissed from the PIA services.
  • Captain Tehrani, another senior PIA B-747 pilot, who was also a habitual drinker and alcoholic was caught drunk during a flight and later dismissed.
  • Captain Imran Aziz, a senior B-777 pilot was picked up by the metropolitan police from the aircraft in Manchester on a complaint by the Hotel Chef Sachas as he saw him drinking heavily on a night before the flight. According to reports, he was grounded by the Director Flight Operations (DFO) but was released by the Manchester police on technical grounds.
  • Another incident was reported when PIA’s first officer Tahir Yousaf was caught by the Norwegian authorities, drunk, put behind bars, and later on dismissed from PIA services.
  • Captain Irfan Faiz, 54, an Airbus 310 captain, was charged with an alcohol-related aviation offence after being arrested at Leeds Airport on suspicion of being drunk while in charge of a plane. He was more than four times the legal alcohol limit when he was arrested in the cockpit of a plane, according to media reports of a court hearing. Captain Faiz, who had been unsteady on his feet before the flight and also smelled of alcohol, was sacked by PIA, Pakistan’s national carrier.
  • Captain Omar Khayyam B-777 captain tested positive through breath analyser in flight PK-791 Islamabad to Birmingham on on March 21, 2019, was stopped from taking off at the eleventh hour on suspicion of pilot being drunk. Later, after proper blood and urine tests, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) cleared him due to technical flaws in the testing systems.
  • Few other instances of cockpit crew and cabin crew also been reported of drunk but were not reported.

However, on November 26, 2021 (Friday), PIA’s Captain Aamir Aftab, also the former Director Flight Security Standards was reportedly found drunk on a flight bound from Canada to Islamabad. According to reports of Baaghi TV, he resigned hours after Mubasher Lucman, a Pakistani journalist and anchorperson, reported the incident in his vlog on YouTube.

PIA Boeing 777 Runway Incursion in Toronto [Official Report]
Senior PIA captain found drunk on flight from Canada to Islamabad

Risking the lives of hundreds of passengers is a big crime. Pakistan CAA and the airlines should come up with some strategy to tackle this issue of drinking alcohol while flying. Some strategies like:

  • giving awareness to the flight crew regarding the pros and cons of drinking before a flight
  • strict breath analyser and blood test facility at all Pakistani airports by approved medical staff
  • undertaking from the crew before the flight that they are fit to fly

PIA’s Airbus A-320, registration number AP-BLD, crashed in a residential area in Karachi on May 22, 2020, killing 97 passengers on board. The unfortunate crash took place in the month of Ramadan where both pilots were fasting, raising a number of questions relating not only to the crash but also about lax safety standards of PIA.

PIA Flight PK 8303: Some unanswered questions

So far, no concrete steps have been taken to stop crew from fasting while operating flights.

Infested with unions and associations supported by political parties and governments in power, the national carrier is bereaved of its past glory. The federal government should take strict legal action against such associations and the CAA in order prevent such incidents in future.

Preliminary Investigation Report for PK-8303 plane crash
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The PIA management should also take stern action against such crew members who fail to perform their duties effectively which, at later stages, creates a negative brand image of the airline as well as of the country.

To read about more stories regarding PIA, click here.

Baaghi TV is exploring this story further as reportedly there are frequent such incidents and we are committed to make PIA crime free, so stay tuned to Baaghi TV for latest news and updates!