By Raju Vernekar
Mumbai, May 10: As many as 5 pilots and 2 engineers of Air India, have tested positive for Coronavirus, during the routine pre-flight test that was carried out 72 hours before they were to be roistered for the flight duties, as part of “Vande Bharat Mission”(VBM), to repatriate Indians stranded abroad.
All the pilots are based in Mumbai and are reportedly asymptomatic and have been admitted to hospital. They had undertaken a cargo flight Boeing 747 flight to Gaungzhou, China from Delhi on 18 April to pick up medical supplies. Air India has been operating international cargo flights to different destinations ever since a nationwide lock down has been enforced. It has operated medical cargo flights to Shanghai and Hong Kong as part of relief work.
Many pilots have been roistered to operate repatriation flights under ongoing VBM to repatriate Indians stranded in different countries. Usually the night halts are at destinations including New York, San Francisco, Washington, Chicago, London and Singapore. Some of the pilots have layovers also in New York, where the number of COVID 19 cases is high.
The pilots operating flights don PPE gears, Hazmat suits and goggles. The airline undergoes swab test before and after they operate the flight. Post flight they proceed to a hotel, where they wait for test results which takes 24 to 48 hours. If they test negative, they are dropped at their residence by airline cars. They have to undergo COVID-19 test after 5 days again. If they test negative they can be restored for further flying duties.
These pilots were tested 72 hours before they were out on the duty roster. We suspect it could be a case of faulty testing kit, an AI source said.
Raju Vernekar is a Media Professional based in Mumbai and is a regular contributor of Imphal Times. He had served as Chief Reporter at Free Press Journal (1996 – 2015 ). His Activities includes writing for different news papers, script writing/production for TV channels, Films Division. Writing poems in Marathi, Hindi, English, Guiding mass media students and helping people to solve their problems. Raju may be contacted at [email protected]
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