View Full Version : Alcohol - Random tests for UK pilots ?

29th Mar 2022, 13:38
Alcohol - Random tests for UK pilots ?
Question - Has any UK based airline introduced (or indicated that it may be required to introduce) random alcohol tests for pilots and (possibly) cabin crew ?

PM me in confidence if you prefer not to post publicly on this subject.

NB - This is NOT a question about whether or not any pilots should be alcohol tested. That would preferably be a debate for a separate thread.

Cheers, ... LFH

29th Mar 2022, 14:22
Don't they all already?

250 kts
29th Mar 2022, 15:59
I'm surprised it's not standard already. ATC has had it in place, and used regularly for at least 8 years.

Flying Clog
29th Mar 2022, 19:24
Standard everywhere.

29th Mar 2022, 20:59
The mere suggestion that they don't already have random AOD testing in place is concerning....I've been in the Oz rail industry for 16 years, had to do a drug test to even get the job back then and have since had more drug or breath tests than I can remember!

Max Angle
30th Mar 2022, 02:33
Standard everywhere.
Not in the UK, it is being introduced very shortly, had a few company memos about in the last few weeks.

30th Mar 2022, 08:04
Why exactly is it concerning ? can you cite any accidents or incidents involving aircraft due to alcohol impairment in the UK in the last 20 years?

Camel herder
30th Mar 2022, 14:01
Looks like the UK is only catching up with what is the norm in most of the rest of the world.

250 kts
31st Mar 2022, 08:05
Maybe this is more about testers arriving in the crew room or other location and carrying out tests there rather, than say, relying on individuals reporting others? At my ATC provider, a random list would be produced of those staff expected on duty and they would then be removed from duty in order and escorted to a room where the test would take place. This was truly random as some individuals were tested several times and others not at all. The external testers would be on a major unit probably once or twice a month.

31st Mar 2022, 09:03
Was the U. K. doing test on suspicion scheme ? Sounds like itís being stepped up to random testing , computer chooses names randomly off the crew list , maybe ? Probably not something the U.K. wanted to do ? Maybe authorities from other countries have forced the issue . All in my opinion only , just personal thoughts and I know nothing.

31st Mar 2022, 10:59
I worked for a UK AOC company 25 years ago which had a random drug and alcohol testing programme then for all of its staff including pilots, engineers and Ops staff.

A tester would show up un-announced and say "You, you, you and you" and that was it - you had to give a breath and urine sample.

There was a lot of harrumphing amongst the ground staff because there were hardly ever any pilots tested because there were rarely ever any there when the tester showed up as they were all off flying - this was eventually addressed to some extent (Although the testers moaned about having to turn out at 05:30 to get them before the flypro started)

31st Mar 2022, 13:40
Probably even more difficult in those airlines that do not even go to the crew room anymore but just go directly to the aircraft/gate for their report. Don't know how many do that, and it probably is impractical for long haul operations, but it is certainly very much possible for short haul operations. Would mean that the personnel doing the testing basically has to run around the whole airport or resort to test whole crews instead.

31st Mar 2022, 14:49
Thanks folks. All very reasonable comments.

Testing for 'Due Cause' and 'Reasonable Suspicion' have been in place for ages in the UK without any problem, other than for those failing a test. It seems that some legislation requiring random pre-flight testing has filtered through and is now being applied. Not forgetting that the aviation limit is one quarter of the UK driving limit.

However, according to the tame 'favourite airline' captain in our pub, the difficulty is in the chosen process, which begs the question "When is your Crew Not a Crew ?"

Apparently you rock up for a trip, only to find your fellow pilot (who you may never have met before) may have been spirited away to the testing room for an indeterminate period of time. But you will still be expected to do all the office biz and catch the bus to begin the time-critical aircraft departure process on your own, pending arrival (or not) of the chosen one, who will have missed everything and thus will need to play catch-up in peace and quiet for a while.

Running the show on your own would not be easy if you're an inexperienced co-pilot or check or training or recency are involved. Inevitable delays, to say nothing of safety issues. He says he will blame IT for the delay.

So are any other UK airlines already doing, or about to introduce random pre-flight alcohol tests ?

31st Mar 2022, 22:56
Years ago: I knew of a couple of offshore oil support operations that required everyone, including passengers, to blow when reporting to the hangar. If the test was positive they required the immediate removal of the person from the contract with no confirmatory further testing. The criteria for a failure was very low, < .02 or somewhere in that area. (apparently someone can blow to that level having not consumed any alcohol) This caused a number of folks having to leave the contract and damage to their reputation.
Someone googled the equipment being used and it was obvious the oil company at one location were not carrying out required calibration and maintenance of the equipment causing false readings. As an example there was a requirement to change a filter after 100 uses. This simple thing was never done.
The reply to entreaties to carry out proper procedures and maintenance was a roaring silence. Hopefully things have much improved since then.

1st Apr 2022, 02:26
I fly in China and it used to be a mandatory requirement to breathalyse to check-in before the virus. Everyone does it; pilots, cabin crew, engineers, ground staff and it takes maybe 10 seconds. Breathalyser was connected directly to the CAAC and a camera recorded you swiping your ID, entering your crew number and blowing and there were various limits that were not absolute zero.

Since the virus it's random checks with a hand held kit that is less accurate but there is a tolerance and retesting can be done with another kit.

Everyone knows it's coming and everyone complies. Odd case where a pilot is over and taken off the duty and given a stern talking to and help as required but not loss of career/jail time as in the west. You don't get a third chance though. Also if you happen to think you may blow over you can actually request a pre-test, see what you blow and then decide that it isn't a good day to fly after all.

In my opinion it's a better system as (at least before the spicy cough) everyone is checked at every report all the time and it's not onerous, there are margins, you can pre-test and safety is maintained. Verus the random and seldom checks in the west which can lead to a feeling of favouritism or persecution amongst different groups. Plus the random checks - In over a decade flying in Europe I was 'almost' tested once on the ramp in AMS but the pax started to board and the police said they wouldn't do it in front of them as even they knew how bad it looked - means that there must be some desperate folk getting through the very wide net reasonably often. Not drunk; just over the limit. There is a big difference.

I also think that pilots being a hair over an alcohol limit is closer to a moral panic in the media versus pilots hanging out of their straps, punch-drunk fatigued at the end of a block of monstrous duties that the CAA/EASA just turn a blind eye to. Why? Because you can't measure fatigue on a little gadget that gives you a lovely little number to two decimal places that you can compare to an arbitrary limit. :E:E:E

1st Apr 2022, 08:09
I would think that these "quick" breathalyzer tests are only a first selection. If you do test positive, I would expect a much more accurate test (blood?) needs to be done to determine if indeed (and how much) you are over the limit?

1st Apr 2022, 11:42
Some interesting technical questions emerging. It's pub quiz night tonight and our 'favourite' captain usually turns up, so a chance to ask what's going on.

2nd Apr 2022, 15:28
Well it looks so far as if only one UK airline is doing random pre-flight alcohol tests for pilots and cabin crew. Perhaps the others are waiting to see how it works, or waiting for legislation.

It appears from last quiz night that the Favourite has a few wrinkles to resolve - like whether a 'failure' is dealt with by the company alone, or devolves to the police, and if the police decline to proceed, does it still result in a disciplinary ? There's questions about the equipment being accurate enough to be legally reliable without a blood or urine test. He thought they were still haggling over who pays for the blood test if one is allowed, and whether 'going sick' should be treated as an automatic test failure. He isn't happy. He swears it isn't "April Fool !"


2nd Apr 2022, 15:55
One company that I worked for had random testing for folks in “Safety Sensitive Positions”.
So they applied it to Pilots, Cabin Crew and Maintenance folk.
A suggestion that management should also be included because they make “safety sensitive decisions” everyday was definitely not welcomed by the management team.
As an aside when they approach you and ask you to do a random drug test replying eagerly: “Certainly, what drugs do you want me to try!” will not be greeted with chuckles and smiles.

Dave Gittins
4th Apr 2022, 13:00
Back in the early 2000 s I worked on the construction of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link and held a Personal Track Safety qualification (PTS). That required drug and alcohol screening initially and then randomly to a low level (about 1/4 of that under the Road Traffic Act). I was told the random D & A screening was a legal requirement for anybody in the UK in any part of the transportation industry whose role was considered to be safety critical. So I expect it to be legally allowed, even if it isn't regularly enforced.

5th Apr 2022, 11:53
What about random blood test for opioid drugs and party pills

5th Apr 2022, 12:35
Probably even more difficult in those airlines that do not even go to the crew room anymore but just go directly to the aircraft/gate for their report. Don't know how many do that, and it probably is impractical for long haul operations, but it is certainly very much possible for short haul operations. Would mean that the personnel doing the testing basically has to run around the whole airport or resort to test whole crews instead.

In Amsterdam you (as a non-based crew) can be tested on board the aircraft after you disembark your pax. Takes a minute or two and thats it. Iíve been tested a few times and itís straight forward enough.