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DGCA launches probe as Air India Delhi-Moscow flight returns after pilot found COVID-19 positive

ANI | Updated: May 30, 2020 18:31 IST

By Ashoke Raj
New Delhi [India], May 30 (ANI): Aviation regulator Director-General of Aviation (DGCA) has launched an investigation into a "serious lapse" after an Air India flight from Delhi to Moscow on Saturday returned midway after its pilot was found COVID-19 infected.
In its initial probe, the DGCA has found that this was a 'serious lapse' by the state run-carrier Air India.
"This was a serious lapse and the regulator has asked Air India (AI) to file a full report of the incident, and DGCA official is investigating the incident," a DGCA source told ANI.
The Airbus A320NEO plane, which had departed from New Delhi as a ferry flight (no passengers) for Moscow to bring back stranded Indians was instructed to return to the national capital after it was airborne for 2 hours and 30 minutes.
The flight had had crossed Pakistan, Afghanistan and was on its way north from Bukhara in Uzbekistan and about to cross Uzbekistan airspace when the crew received information that one of the non -operating pilots was COVID-19 positive, according to DGCA sources.
The flight AI-1945 returned to Delhi at about 12.30 pm and the crew has been quarantined as per norms.
Normally, the route clearance is obtained before departure for crossing all countries falling under the planned route. However, fresh approvals needs to be obtained if the aircraft needs to alter its course or return.
However, before entering Pakistan airspace the plane was made to hold since they did not have air defence approval from Pakistan and it took 10 minutes before they were allowed to enter Pakistan airspace and exit it to reach Indian airspace.
According to Air safety expert and Gulf-based India career pilot Captain Amit Singh, the pilot establishes contact with the air traffic control in order to return the plane to the departure airport.
"The air traffic control with which the crew are in communication is requested to coordinate for fresh approvals but they are also able to coordinate till the next change over point in the limited time. The crew co-ordinated with the air traffic controller for a turn back due to operational reasons and a fresh clearance was assigned to them," the captain added.
On return, immediately after landing all cockpit and cabin crew were de-rostered and have been tested and all laid down medical precautions are being taken to ensure their health and safety.
Another aircraft has taken off today to operate the Vande Bharat flight Moscow to Delhi, the airline said in a statement.
On May 7 India launched the biggest evacuation exercise to bring back stranded Indians due to a coronavirus-induced lockdown. The second phase began on May 16. (ANI)