India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) is proposing a revision to the Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR), which, of approved, would no longer allow pilots and cabin crew to wear perfume.
The amendment was proposed as a precaution so that the alcohol, a main ingredient of perfumes, does not interfere with the mandatory breathalyser tests pilot and cabin crew are subject to before every flight, giving a false positive.
“No crew member shall consume any drug/formulation or use any substance such as mouthwash/tooth gel/perfume or any such product which has alcoholic content. This may result into a positive breathalyser test. Any crew member who is undergoing such medication shall consult the company doctor before undertaking a flying assignment “, the clause reads.
Although the use of mouthwash is known to sometimes result in false positive breathalyser tests, so far, there has been no indication that perfume might have the same effect. Regardless, since, depending on their strength, perfumes can contain between 60% and 95% ethanol, the same compound present in alcoholic beverages, the regulators do not want to take any chances.
India has some of the strictest regulations regarding substance consumption for pilots and cabin crew. Unlike other countries, where tests are occasionally taken at random or only after a specific report, India’s DGCA requires every member of the staff operating a flight departing from the country to take a breathalyser test before every take-off.
According to aviation news media Paddle your own kanoo, 41 Indian pilots and 116 cabin crew members had their licenses temporarily suspended in 2022 after having positive breathalyser tests. Those who were at the second offence, were suspended for a year.
Moreover, CAR is also stringent regarding the amount of time that needs to pass between drinking and being allowed to work on a flight: “It is a well-known fact that even when the blood alcohol levels are zero in the body, there could be some effect of hangover, which is mainly due to congeners. These congeners may take 15 to 18 hours to get dissipated and may produce ill effects for up to 36 hours depending upon the amount of alcohol consumed.”
“Even 12 hours after a bout of drinking, when blood alcohol level remains zero, there is decrement in task performance. Alcohol present in body even in small quantities jeopardises flight safety on several counts and is likely to adversely affect an aviator well into the hangover period. (…) Therefore, in the present state of our knowledge, the level of blood alcohol compatible with safe flying is ‘Zero’, which is also recommended by ICAO”, the regulation states.