SINGAPORE: Pilots leaving from Changi and Seletar airports will be subjected to random alcohol tests from Sunday (Mar 31), the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) announced on Thursday.
The random alcohol tests are part of efforts by CAAS to tighten rules on alcohol abstention for pilots, and comes six months after Singapore Airlines (SIA) was forced to cancel a flight from Melbourne to Wellington after the pilot failed an alcohol test.
"CAAS has a zero tolerance policy towards alcohol consumption," the authority said in a press release. "On Mar 31, 2019, CAAS will implement the Airport Alcohol Testing Programme, and commence random alcohol testing of pilots at Changi and Seletar airports."
When a particular flight is selected for alcohol testing, the pilots reporting for duty will be subject to breathalyser tests.
Pilots found to exceed an alcohol limit of 0.02 grams (20mg) per 210 litres of breath will not be permitted to fly, CAAS said.
"This limit has been determined based on international best practices. 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," said CAAS.
Pilots found to be operating under the influence of alcohol may be fined up to S$50,000 and jailed up to 2 years for the first offence. Repeat offenders may be fined up to S$100,000 and jailed up to five years.
Singapore air operators will also be required to strengthen their alcohol abstention policies.
For example, SIA Group and Jetstar Asia currently require pilots to abstain from alcohol 10 hours before flight.
From May 1, they will also be required to implement an Airline Alcohol Management Programme to proactively identify, manage and rehabilitate pilots with problematic use of alcohol.
Foreign airlines are strongly encouraged to implement such a programme, CAAS added.
Director-General of CAAS Kevin Shum said: "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."
Japan also said late last year that it will start alcohol testing for pilots after a Japan Airlines co-pilot was arrested in London shortly before a flight for being drunk.