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LCQ7: Regulating the level of alcohol concentration of pilots while discharging duties

     Following is a question by the Ir Dr Hon Raymond Ho Chung-tai and a written reply by the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Ms Eva Cheng, at the Legislative Council meeting today (January 13):


     It has been reported that in recent years, incidents involving pilots discharging duties on international civilian passenger aircraft while being drunk happened from time to time, and such behaviour seriously affected the safety of passengers and other crew members.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the maximum allowable level of alcohol concentration, as prescribed in the relevant legislation of Hong Kong, of civilian passenger aircraft pilots while discharging duties on aircraft; whether such a requirement is the same as those on the Mainland and in other developed countries; what measures the authorities have in place at present to ensure that the level of alcohol concentration of civilian passenger aircraft pilots while they are discharging duties on flights departing from Hong Kong complies with the statutory requirement; and

(b) of the number of civilian passenger aircraft pilots who were prosecuted in each of the past five years for breaching the relevant legislation in Hong Kong because they discharged duties while being drunk, as well as the names of the airline companies to which they belonged?



(a) To ensure aviation safety, we have adopted various measures to prevent pilots of civil aircraft from performing duties under the influence of alcohol or other psychoactive substances.  These include enacting legislation in accordance with international standards to regulate airlines and issuing appropriate guidelines for industry players.

     According to Annex 1 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation (hereinafter referred to as "the Convention"), crew members shall not exercise the privileges of their licences (including pilot licences) while under the influence of any psychoactive substance (including alcohol) which might render them unable to exercise these privileges safely and properly.  The Convention has not prescribed a maximum allowable level of alcohol concentration for crew members.  

     Regarding the laws of Hong Kong, in order to implement the relevant requirements in the Convention, Article 49(2) of the Air Navigation (Hong Kong) Order 1995, Subsidiary Legislation C under the Civil Aviation Ordinance (Cap 448) (hereinafter referred to as "the Order") stipulates that a person shall not, when acting as a crew member, be under the influence of psychoactive substances (including alcohol) to such an extent as to impair his capacity so to act.  According to Article 91(6) of the Order, contravention of the provision could lead to a fine and/or imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years.

     On airline regulation, the Civil Aviation Department ("CAD") requires all airlines holding a Hong Kong Air Operator's Certificate ("AOC") to develop a set of detailed and stringent operating requirements in their operations manuals for the purpose of monitoring the safety conduct of their crew members.  These include measures to manage the consumption of alcoholic beverages by the crew members.  CAD will vet the operations manuals for compliance with the relevant international standards and guidelines as well as the requirements of the laws of Hong Kong.  Moreover, Articles 102 and 86(1) of the Order require airlines holding AOCs to respectively implement a safety management system and report to CAD incidents that may affect aviation safety, including any incident in which crew members performed duties while under the influence of psychoactive substances (including alcohol) and affected aviation safety.

     On the other hand, having regard to the relevant guidelines of the International Civil Aviation Organisation ("ICAO"), CAD has also advised all persons performing crew duties in Hong Kong to avoid the influence of alcohol during a certain period of time before and while they are on duty to ensure aviation safety.  This is done through the issue of the Aeronautical Information Circular to the crew members.

     The above measures fully comply with ICAO's standards and relevant requirements.  

     Certain civil aviation authorities (including those of the Mainland, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia) further prescribe in their local legislation the maximum allowable level of alcohol concentration of crew members, generally ranging from 20 to 40 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood.  

     CAD will continue to monitor the international safety standards and the effectiveness of the relevant measures, and review our legislation and safety guidelines as necessary.

(b) In the past 5 years, CAD has not received any complaint or incident report about crew members of civil aircraft suspected to have performed duties while under the influence of psychoactive substances (including alcohol), and there has not been any prosecution against any crew member for such reason.

Ends/Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Issued at HKT 14:41


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