An air traffic control officer (ATCO) has failed a drug test while being on duty at Delhi-Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL) in India.  

On August 18, 2022, the controller took a random test for psychoactive substances which came back positive, a spokesperson of India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) confirmed to The Times of India on August 21, 2022.  

"A confirmatory test was done on the ATCO posted at DEL airport and that too turned out non-negative," a DGCA spokesperson said. 

Following the DGCA guidance, the DEL airport employee was immediately taken off duty. 

Even though the DGCA has been performing breath analyzer checks for both airline and airport employees for several years, the regulator recently introduced an additional measure to ensure the sobriety of personnel while on duty.   

Since January 31, 2022, the DGCA implemented a random mandatory drug testing for ATC controllers, flight crew, and cabin crew members, with the goal to conduct checks on at least 10% of the staff. The test covers the usage of multiple psychoactive substances, including amphetamine, barbiturates, benzodiazepine as well as cannabis, cocaine, opiates, and metabolites. 

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According to the new guidance, if a person fails the drug test once, the result should be confirmed by a second test once they report for duty. If the result of the second test turns out to be positive as well, the person is suspended from duty and sent to rehab before they are allowed to return to their position.   

If an employee tests positive repeatedly, they will lose their license for three years. Eventually, a persistent offender will lose their license permanently, the DGCA guidance reads. 

It was the first instance of an air traffic controller failing the test since the DGCA unrolled its new policy. However, three pilots have also tested positive previously. 

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