DGCA: Pilots Association urges DGCA to suspend breath analyzer test amid COVID threat

The Federation of Indian Pilots (FIP) on Thursday urged aviation regulator DGCA to temporarily suspend breath analyzer (BA) testing for aviation personnel with immediate effect to prevent the spread of the coronavirus infection. The FIP claims to represent around 5,000 pilots.

In a letter to Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) Arun Kumar, FIP said these testing machines are often used on multiple people, some of whom may be infected without showing symptoms.

Also during last year’s pandemic, the Civil Aviation Authority temporarily suspended BA testing for all aviation personnel due to similar concerns.

“In view of the unprecedented surge in Covid-19 cases across the country, it is requested that blood alcohol testing for aviation personnel be temporarily suspended throughout your jurisdiction, with immediate effect, to prevent the spread of infection – as did your office last. year during the onset of the first wave of the pandemic, ”FIP President Surinder Mehta said in the letter.

Copies of the letter were also sent to the Minister of Civil Aviation, the Secretary of Civil Aviation and the Ministry of Health as well as the Director General of ICMR, among others.

As per the rules, all aviation personnel, such as pilots, ground support personnel and air traffic controllers, must undergo breath analyzer (BA) tests from time to time.

The test is performed by blowing into a tube to ensure that the crew has not consumed alcohol.

FIP said some of the factors that may exacerbate Covid-related risks include the viability of the coronavirus on BA testing equipment, each of which is often used on multiple people, and many of which could now be infected in ways asymptomatic.

The clearing of potentially infected blast tubes in the testing area, by some operators, could also amplify the risk of the virus spreading, he said, adding that unmasking of flight attendants during the BA test and the consequent dangers of exposure to virus-laden aerosols (especially since the virus has now been proven to be airborne) could also spread the virus further.

In addition, poorly disinfected and poorly ventilated test rooms, resulting in virus-laden contact points and surfaces, also pose a risk, FIP said.

The critical role that aircrew play in managing this strategically important industry, especially for the rapid transport of medical supplies and vaccines, makes it imperative that all preventive measures are now taken to stop the rapid spread of the disease among crews and to ensure proper operation. air operations in the public, commercial and national interest, Mehta said in the letter.