In a close call for about 180 fliers on a Mangaluru to Dubai SpiceJet flight on Wednesday, pre-flight check at the airport detected that the First Officer, the co-pilot, had reported drunk for duty. Following this, the passengers were stranded overnight in the airport for about six hours.
The Turkish pilot, identified as Sebahat Ulku Erk, was on the duty roster to fly SpiceJet flight SG-059 at 12.15 am from Mangalore International Airport (MIA) to Dubai, with a journey time of approximately three hours and 25 minutes.
However, when the officer was called for a medical check prior to his flight at Mangaluru, he tested positive for alcohol. "The first officer failed to meet the stringent SpiceJet safety standards and tested positive during pre-flight medical check for alcohol and was not permitted to operate the flight," a SpiceJet spokesperson told The News Minute.
Sebahat's employment with Spicejet was a part of ‘wet-leasing agreement’ between SpiceJet and Turkey-based Corendon Airlines. "It means that the crew was provided to us by the aircraft owner, Corendon Airlines. Sebahat is not a part of our organisation," the spokesperson said.
Following the discovery of the inebriated condition of the co-pilot, SpiceJet said that he was not permitted to operate the flight. "We have suspended Sebahat from operating all SpiceJet aircrafts and he has been sent back to his parent organization, who have to take action as per their prevailing rules and regulation," the spokesperson said.
Meanwhile, the passengers who were at the airport had no clue over why the flight was delayed. Although, repeated announcements were made at the airport citing technical delays.
"My wife was a passenger...no information was given till the last moment. She had connecting flight from Dubai, which she missed. In what way Spice Jet will compensate it... There is no press release about this issue from Spice Jet..." (sic) Manoj B vented out on social media.
However, the SpiceJet spokesperson said that it cannot be fully blamed for the delay. "We had arranged for the replacement of the co-pilot within an hour. But MIA had announced Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) between 12.15am to 4.30am, so we could not fly-out of the airport as the airport infrastructure was going through maintenance," he said. Eventually, the flight took-off from MIA close to 6 am in the morning.
The SpiceJet spokesperson also said that as a matter of protocol they have reported the finding to the DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation). Since the airliner had followed the standard operating protocol and brought things under control, the airliner is unlikely to face action, Spicejet said.
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