Air India flight returns after pilot found COVID-19 positive, probe ordered

Another plane would be sent to Moscow to bring back the stranded Indians, according to the officials

India suspended all scheduled international passenger flights on March 23 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Representational image: Twitter

An Air India flight from Delhi to Moscow on Saturday (May 30) had to return midway after the airline’s ground team found out that one of the pilots had tested positive for COVID-19, officials said.

“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 ground realised that one of the pilots had tested COVID-positive,” senior Air India officials said.

“The flight was immediately asked to return. It came back to Delhi at around 12.30 pm on Saturday,” the officials said.

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The crew has been quarantined. Another plane would be sent to Moscow to bring back the stranded Indians, according to the officials.

Related news | Vande Bharat Mission: In phase 2, Air India to operate 149 repatriation flights

Aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said it would order a probe into a “lapse” in procedure.

Sources in the DGCA told NDTV, “Prima facie, this appears to be a lapse,” since the pilot was not supposed to be on the plane if he was found positive.

On the other hand, officials claimed there was an error in the pre-flight test report, which was read as negative initially.

All pilots are usually tested for COVID-19 before they are allowed to fly. The results of these tests are usually centrally processed by the airline.

Air India also said they conduct at least 200 tests for COVID-19 a day just in Delhi for all members of the crew ahead of all the flights they operate.

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