Qantas — widely regarded as the world's safest airline — is investigating a captain who was reportedly removed from the cockpit moments before take-off because because of suspicions that she had been drinking.
The Fairfax Media reported that cabin crew removed the female captain from the plane just before it was due to depart from Sydney airport because they feared she had been drinking alcohol before the flight.
The Qantas 767-300 aircraft was flying to the northern Australian city of Brisbane.
It had already pulled back from the domestic terminal and was taxiing towards a runway when Qantas management made the decision to stand down the captain.
While Australia's air safety regulator, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, conducts random breath tests of pilots, flight attendants and ground crews, Qantas also self-regulates on such matters as drug and alcohol testing.
The airline has a zero tolerance to pilots recording an alcohol reading.
According to News.com.au, the senior pilot was stood down from operational duties on full pay.
News cited a Qantas spokesman as saying that the airline couldn’t comment on the pilot’s identity or alcohol reading, but confirmed: "A Qantas captain was withheld from service this week for administrative reasons. The matter is being investigated and it would be inappropriate to comment further."
According to Fairfax, it is rare for pilots to be removed from duty for breaching airline policy. Positive outcomes in alcohol and drug tests are also understood to be a rarity.
Fewer than 100 of Qantas's 2,200 pilots are women, Fairfax added.
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