The US Federal Aviation Administration has upped the penalties for pilots caught intoxicated before flight. But the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) is concerned this may deter pilots from warning authorities of fellow pilots who have substance abuse problems.

Twenty-two pilots failed breath tests in 2002, up from nine in 2001. Nine pilots have so far tested positive for alcohol this year. The FAA has ruled that the medical certificate and flying licence of a pilot would be revoked if they were discovered to have broken the agency's alcohol consumption rules. "It makes it more difficult" to return to flying quickly, admits the FAA.

ALPA says, however, that "it used to be that in only the most egregious cases they would take away the airman certificate. All you had to do was follow the process of the medical conditions and you could get reinstated. Now it is complicated by the fact that they have to go back and requalify as a pilot."

ALPA is concerned pilots with substance abuse problems "will be driven deep into the woodwork, and that other pilots will be less likely to turn them in".

Source: Flight International