No cases of pilots taking alcohol, drugs before boarding planes in Singapore: Lam Pin Min

No cases of pilots taking alcohol, drugs before boarding planes in Singapore: Lam Pin Min

Random blood testing is not conducted in Singapore but the aviation authority has conducted more than 900 ramp inspections since 2013 and not detected any signs of pilot intoxication.

A Singapore Airlines (SIA) passenger plane lands at Changi airport in Singapore, on May 8, 2014
File photo of a Singapore Airlines plane at Changi Airport (Photo: AFP/Roslan Rahman)

SINGAPORE: There has not been any case of pilots consuming alcohol or drugs before boarding aeroplanes in Singapore, based on records from the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS), said Senior Minister of State for Transport Lam Pin Min on Tuesday (Oct 2) in Parliament.

In response to a follow-up question from Member of Parliament Ang Wei Neng, Dr Lam said random blood testing is currently not carried out in Singapore.

However, spot checks are performed by CAAS during ramp inspections.

According to CAAS, these ramp inspections are conducted on both Singapore and foreign aircraft at Changi Airport and Seletar Airport, and involve a physical inspection of the plane as well as the flight crew licences and aircraft documentation.

"During these inspections, our inspectors speak with the pilots on flight operations related matters and also look for signs of intoxication," said Mr Alan Foo, director of airworthiness and flight operations at CAAS.

Since 2013, CAAS has conducted more than 900 such ramp inspections, and has not detected any pilot showing signs of intoxication, Mr Foo added.

According to a CAAS information circular, the frequency of the inspections is dependent on the level of confidence it has in the airline.

Last month, a Singapore Airlines (SIA) flight out of Melbourne was cancelled after the pilot failed a random alcohol test conducted by Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority. SIA has suspended the pilot and CAAS is investigating the case, which is the first to be reported to the authority in a decade. 

READ: Singapore Airlines flight from Melbourne cancelled after pilot failed alcohol test

“Most civil aviation regulators, including CAAS, hold their airlines responsible for ensuring that their pilots do not operate aircraft whilst intoxicated,” said Dr Lam. “Specifically, CAAS requires Singapore carriers to ensure that their pilots do not consume any alcohol at least 8 hours before flight, wherever they operate in the world.”

Flying out of Singapore’s airports under the influence of drugs or alcohol - regardless of whether the pilot is operating a Singapore or foreign registered aircraft - is an offence under the Air Navigation Order. The penalty is up to S$100,000 and/or five years’ imprisonment upon conviction.

READ: Singapore Airlines pilots not allowed to consume alcohol within 10 hours of flight

READ: SIA pilot who failed alcohol test was first reported case in 10 years, says CAAS

Dr Lam also revealed that Singapore carriers have set up peer support groups to identify and manage individuals who may have alcohol-related issues.

“These support groups provide a non-punitive approach for pilots to seek support and treatment,” he said. “Such peer support groups are recognised internationally as an effective measure to identify such pilots at an early stage to rehabilitate them, or to remove them from flying duties where necessary.

"Operating an aircraft while intoxicated is a serious matter. CAAS is reviewing the regulations and procedures to more strongly deter such behaviour,” Dr Lam concluded.

Source: CNA/jo(ms)