Airlines Avoid Alcohol Test Mandate

Transport Minister Marc Garneau has put airlines on notice about impaired pilots.

Canada’s eight largest airlines appear to have headed off mandatory random drug and alcohol testing for flight crews but Transport Minister Marc Garneau has reminded them they’re being watched.

After a Sunwing captain passed out drunk in the cockpit of the Boeing 737 he was supposed to command to Regina and Cancun last Dec. 31, Garneau ordered airlines to report on their procedures to prevent such a thing from happening.

By last week the airlines had confirmed they “have proper safety protocols in place to deal with alcohol and drug testing” according to a statement released by Transport Canada.

The government punctuated its statement with an admonition that it’s a criminal offense for anyone to fly an aircraft within eight hours of drinking alcohol and that it’s up to the airlines “ensure that their employees follow [the regulations].”

“As a commercial air carrier authorised to carry passengers in Canada, you have an obligation to ensure that flight crew members are fit to fly when requiring them to carry out such responsibilities,” he said.

The Sunwing pilot, a Slovakian on a Canadian work permit, was arrested and charged.

Last July two Air Transat pilots were arrested for drunkeness at Glasgow Airport in Scotland just before taking 250 passengers back to Canada.

Transport Canada is going ahead with plans for a “Fit to Fly” workshop next June and discussion of random alcohol and drug testing is on the agenda.

U.S. airlines are required to conduct random drug and alcohol testing for their flight crew and results have consistently shown a statistically insignificant positive rate.