Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Government Crackdown on Drunk Airline Pilots

The 'Makgeolli Effect'
Almost a year since the government decided to ban some drunk drivers from driving buses, officials have finally made good on their threat to try and extend the measures to airline pilots.

The move comes as pilots have been caught drinking alcohol in cockpits or engaging in unprofessional conduct such as failing to follow flight manuals or abiding by safety rules. Last year three pilots were prevented from boarding their aircraft when they were found to be more drunk that the ground staff, while another pilot under the influence of alcohol was suspended after apparently struggling to land in heavy fog at Incheon Airport which later transpired to be from his cigarettes.

Authorities have previously attempted to prevent pilots drinking on board aircraft by searching their hand luggage before boarding, and instructing stewardesses – even the ones they were sleeping with – not to serve alcoholic drinks to them during flights. The plan failed partly because of what the Ministry of Transport characterized these "air-headed women's inability to follow instructions", although they also reluctantly acknowledged that security searches at Korean airports had transpired to be "not very good".

The Ministry say that nine safety inspectors are already engaged in randomly boarding both cargo and commercial aircraft to observe how pilots operate. However, pilots have shown a lukewarm response to the government's latest initiative, partly because they haven't been invited and don't bring anything to the party with them. "Nobody likes gatecrashers, unless it's an accident." said 65 year-old Captain Kim. Other pilots say that the presence of inspectors in the cockpit might distract them because they weren't comfortable flying with people around them, and that many misunderstand the kind of high-altitude spatial disorientation, known as 'The Makgeolli Effect', which sometimes Korean pilots experience.

Some passengers have also criticized the move. Dokdo City resident 38 year-old Kim said that every year he books his annual holiday to Korea's second-class city, Busan "but really, you could end up anywhere". Kim said he would be sad to see the end of his mystery holidays although he admits that since he's started taking flights with government inspectors on, he's been surprised at how little turbulence there's been.

The Ministry says it has already started compiling a report of its findings, which will be made available to the public much, much later.

Related Links
Pilots face random cockpit inspections
Pilot caught reporting to work drunk
Asiana Airlines pilot caught boarding airplane intoxicated
Drunken pilots raise air travel risks
Punishment for Pilots who Fly after Drinking to be Stepped Up
S. Korea's budget carriers come under fire for string of mishaps
Incheon Air Traffic Controller Paralyzed for an Hour
Jeju Air criticized for pilot error
Korean Air offers voluntary retirement
Japan issues Korean Air boycott for diplomats over Dokdo
Some Drunk Drivers to be Banned from Driving Buses
Air Traffic Control Breakdown Is Unacceptable
Chinese airlines seek to recruit Korean pilots

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