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New Delhi: The Indian Commercial Pilots’ Association has requested a temporary ban on the mandatory pre- and post-flight breath analyser tests citing the rising cases of Covid-19 in India.

In a letter to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) Tuesday, the association noted that the tests increase risk of contagion for the pilots.

“It is in light of this pandemic and the ease with which the disease gets transmitted that we seek a temporary suspension of the mandatory requirement for such pre-flight and post-flight tests,” the letter, which was accessed by ThePrint, read. It added that blowing into the breathalyser apparatus for the test increases the risk of Covid transmission for pilots.

All pilots are required to undergo mandatory breathalyser tests before and after a flight to ensure he or she is not under the influence of alcohol or has not consumed alcohol in the 12 hours prior to reporting for duty. In the past, the association has even resorted to legal recourse against pilots who failed to follow this mandate.

However, since Covid primarily spreads through respiratory droplets when one coughs, sneezes or even speaks, these tests have become a source of concern for flight crews.

All breath analyser tests were suspended last March when the pandemic broke due to the same concerns, but were resumed in September 2020 after India’s Covid curve began to bend.


Also read: Govt directs airlines to stop in-flight meals on domestic airlines to prevent Covid spread


‘Pilots have been ostracised, abused since pandemic began’

The letter, undersigned by the association’s general secretary Captain T. Praveen Keerthi, also recounted how pilots in India have been enduring ostracisation and abuse since the onset of the pandemic.

Last year, several pilots were ostracised by Resident Welfare Association vigilantes after they carried out repatriation flights from countries that were severely affected by Covid.

“Authorities had failed to recognise flight crew as frontline workers, knowing very well the risks faced by them (while) operating flights during the pandemic,” the letter read.

“We sincerely hope that you recognise pilots in India are bravely continuing to fly aircraft despite such pandemic and only seek your indulgence to instil greater confidence in our pilots by showing them the DGCA cares for their health and safety during these testing times,” it added, noting that they hoped for an “urgent decision” in this regard.

The pilots’ request comes on the heels of India surpassing Brazil to become the second worst-hit country in the world in terms of its coronavirus cases.

As of 13 April, there are 12,64,698 active cases of Covid-19 in the country and 1,71,058 people have succumbed to the virus.

(Edited by Rachel John)


Also read: With less than 300 choppers, India’s helicopter market dwindles, industry wants better rules


 

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