The tipsy pilots were caught in random blood tests carried out between January 2009 and November 2010, India's aviation minister Vayalar Ravi told members of the Indian parliament.
Fifty-seven pilots from some of India's most popular airlines were caught with excessive alcohol levels but only eleven were dismissed. Some were suspended for three months while others were simply fined or 57 Indian airline pilots found to be 'tipsy' ahead of flyingreceived warning letters.
The disclosure will raise new questions over Indian safety procedures and the disciplinary standards of its airlines. They follow the recent scandal over the number of unqualified Indian pilots working on fake licences.
Those concerns were raised again earlier this week when police arrested a man for obtaining commercial flying licences with forged mark sheets. Police have now arrested 13 pilots, three civil aviation officials and two forgers in connection with a fake licence racket.
Aviation expert Captain Abdul Nasir Hanfee said although procedures need further tightening, the introduction of random testing had reduced instances of drunkenness among pilots."Drinking and flying in India was quite frequent before the authorities tightened the procedures. There is an increased vigilance and random checks of pilots for liquor which to some extent has helped check it," he said.
"Normally, the drunk pilot thinks that his co-pilot will handle (the controls) during the flight. This is probably one of the motivations to take liquor before flying. The figure given by the civil aviation ministry talks about pilots who were caught and not those proceeded to fly.
"Earlier these things were ignored by the authorities but due to efforts by the media and other agencies a lot of wrongs have been exposed recently."
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