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New Delhi, May 30, 2020
A ferry flight of national carrier Air India which took off from Delhi for Moscow on Saturday returned after a crew member was found Covid-19 positive.
The flight, being operated under the Vande Bharat mission, was half-way over Central Asia when it was called back.
According to sources, the airline's staff overseeing the operations mistook the pilot's test report as 'negative' while he had tested 'positive' for Covid-19.
Subsequently, the aircraft was informed and the SoPs meant for such situations were immediately implemented.
The incident has been termed as "unfortunate" by many industry insiders, as AI has been instrumental in carrying out COVID-19 evacuation operations for around five months now. The airline is well conversant with safety protocols which mandate COVID-19 testing of crew before and after a flight.
"Prioritising safety protocol, Air India has recalled its Delhi-Moscow repatriation ferry flight today as one of the pilots, who had recently tested positive, was inadvertently rostered for the flight due to genuine oversight," another source told IANS.
"Another aircraft will shortly leave for Moscow."
In a statement, the airline said: "Air India this 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."
"On return, immediately after landing, all cockpit and cabin crew were tested and all laid-down medical precautions were being taken to ensure their health and safety."
"Another aircraft has taken off today to operate the Vande Bharat flight from Moscow to Delhi."
Consequent to the incident, the regulator, DGCA, has ordered a probe into the matter.
The probe is said to be looking at the lapses which occurred while implementing the SoPs meant for mounting flights.