On Saturday, an Air India flight travelling from Delhi to Moscow had to return midway from Uzbekistan after the airline’s ground team found out that one of the pilots onboard has tested positive for the coronavirus.
According to the reports, an oversight team of the Air India, while checking pre-flight test reports of crew members had mistakenly read the captain’s positive report as negative and released him for the ferry flight to fly back Indians from Moscow.
The flight was deployed under Vande Bharat Mission to bring back stranded Indians from abroad.
“It was a genuine oversight due to the massive amount of test results that need to be gone through. Delhi base alone sees testing of 300 crew members daily due to which more labs had to be roped in. The volume of tests has meant results come in an excel sheet now. The person checking the test result status of the crew who have tested negative and hence are available for rostering cleared an A320 crew for the Delhi-Moscow flight” said an Air India source to Times of India.
The Airbus A-320 Neo (VT-EXR) returned to Delhi at about 12.30 pm on Saturday and now the entire crew will be quarantined as per norms. The Air India plane will be sanitised and another A320 Neo to Moscow will be sent later on Saturday afternoon to fly back Indians from there.
“When the A320 plane, which did not have any passengers as it was heading to Moscow to bring back stranded Indians under Vande Bharat Mission, had reached Uzbekistan’s airspace, our team on the ground realised that one of the pilots had tested COVID-positive,” senior Air India officials said.
Air India leading the Vande Bharat Mission
The national carrier Air India has been running several flights under Vande Bharat Mission. In the first phase, between May 7 and 16, over 16,000 stranded Indians have been brought back. In second phase from May 17 to June 13, Air India flights are scheduled to operate from 60 countries.
The flights will evacuate Indians from the US, UK, Germany, South Korea, New Zealand, and Sweden.
Meanwhile, the government has made it compulsory for pilots and crew to be tested for corona before being allowed to operate these flights. Reportedly, the Air India crew, who are yet to get their flying allowance since March 2020 are operating these flights as a “national duty”.