By Lee Hyo-sik
An Asiana Airlines pilot under the influence of alcohol was stopped by aviation inspectors in Busan, Tuesday, as he was about to board an airplane carrying 112 passengers.
The drunken pilot’s blood-alcohol concentration exceeded the legally-allowed limit - high enough to suspend his aviator license and impose fines on the airline firm, the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs said.
Due to the incident, the flight was delayed by more than an hour, with Korea’s second-largest flagship carrier scrambling to find a substitute pilot.
The captain of Asiana Airlines’ flight OZ8532, identified only by his surname Oh, failed a random onsite alcohol test as he was boarding the aircraft at Gimhae International Airport.
Oh was immediately taken into custody by ministry inspectors and the flight, which was scheduled to take off for Incheon International Airport at 7:10 a.m., departed instead at 8:16 a.m.
Aviation inspectors carry out random alcohol tests on pilots once every two months mostly at Incheon, Gimpo, Jeju and Gimhae airports.
The ministry said the pilot was given alcohol tests six times. His blood-alcohol concentration surpassed a legally-allowed limit of 0.04 percent three times, reaching as high as 0.067 percent. But later his blood-alcohol content was measured at below 0.04 percent on the remaining three times.
On the road, if blood-alcohol concentration exceeds 0.05 percent, motorists are ruled intoxicated.
But for pilots, if their blood alcohol content is above 0.04 percent, they are in trouble. Under the Aviation Law, pilots could face up to a 2-year imprisonment or a maximum fine of 10 million won. Their license will also be suspended for 30 days.
However, Oh refused to accept the figure measured by a breathalyzer, requesting that his blood be drawn and tested for alcohol content.
``Oh’s blood was drawn three hours after the breathalyzer tests in accordance with the law. His blood-alcohol concentration was 0.017 percent, below the legal limit,’’ said an official at the ministry’s aviation safety policy department.
He said the ministry will take disciplinary actions against the pilot and Asiana Airlines based on the breathalyzer test results. ``We think blood-alcohol tests carried out onsite are more accurate. The measurement through blood sample is done three hours later, meaning the alcohol content becomes significantly diluted at the time of the test,’’ he said.
But the official said the ministry will first consult with police about the matter and then decide how to proceed.
Asiana Airlines, quite shocked by the incident, said it will take stern disciplinary actions against the pilot, regardless of whether he was legally drunk or not.
``If the pilot was found to be intoxicated before boarding the plane, we will severely punish him, including possible dismissal. Even if he was not legally drunk, he will be reprimanded because his behavior compromised aviation safety,’’ its spokesman said.
김해공항서 아시아나 항공 기장 이륙전 음주적발
음주상태에서 항공기를 운항하려던 아시아나항공 소속 기장이 출발 직전 국토해양부 감독관의 불시점검에서 적발되는 어처구니없는 일이 벌어졌다.
측정결과 이 기장의 혈중 알코올 농도는 면허정지 수치였고 다른 항공기 기장과 교체되는 소동 끝에 항공기는 1시간가량 늦게 이륙했다.
3일 아시아나 항공과 국토해양부 등에 따르면 이날 오전 7시10분 김해공항을 출발해 인천으로 가려던 아시아나항공 OZ8532편의 오모 기장이 국토해양부 소속 감독관의 불시 음주운전 단속에 적발됐다.
6차례의 측정결과 오 기장의 최고 혈중 알코올 농도는 0.067% 정도로 면허정지 수치에 해당했지만 오 기장은 수치에 수긍할 수 없다며 채혈측정을 요구하고 있는 것으로 알려졌다.