Delhi-Moscow flight returns as pilot tests COVID-19 +ve

Delhi-Moscow AI flight returns after pilot found COVID-19 positive

The crew has been quarantined. Another plane would be sent to Moscow to bring back the stranded Indians. (AFP photo)

A Mocow-bound Air India flight had to return mid-way while overflying Uzbekistan after the airline realised that one of the pilots of the aircraft had tested COVID-19 positive, prompting an investigation by the aviation regulator.

An Airbus320 Neo aircraft had departed at 7:30 a.m. for Moscow without any passengers (ferry flight) to bring back stranded Indian nationals as part of the Vande Bharat Mission.

The airline officials realised that a mix-up by the team handling the pre-flight checks had mistakenly read one of the pilot’s COVID-19 test reports as negative and cleared him for the flight.

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The lapse was detected and the flight, which was overflying Uzbekistan, was called back to Delhi and it landed around 12:30 p.m. at the Indira Gandhi International Airport.

“Air India this (Saturday) morning recalled its aircraft operating Delhi-Moscow without passengers immediately when it was noticed that one of the cockpit crew had tested positive in the pre-flight Covid test,” an airline official said.

The cockpit and the cabin crew of the aircraft was tested and quarantined as per laid down procedure to ensure their health and safety, the official said.

Another aircraft was dispatched to Moscow at 5:00 p.m. on Saturday.

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Airline officials termed the incident as a “genuine oversight” owing to the huge number of mandatory tests being carried out on the Air India crew daily for the Vande Bharat mission.

Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has ordered a probe into the incident.

“Prima facie it appears to be a lapse. We will investigate the incident,” a DGCA official said.

According to standard operating procedure, pilots and other crew members of any flight are required to undergo mandatory testing for COVID-19 and are assigned duties if the laboratory results are negative.

Air India has been operating Vande Bharat flights to bring back Indians stranded in foreign countries since May 7. 

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