Pilots association urges DGCA to suspend breath analyst test amid Covid threat

MUMBAI: The Indian Pilots Federation (FIP) on Thursday urged flight regulator DGCA to temporarily suspend breath analyzer (BA) tests for aviation personnel to stop the spread of coronavirus infection.
The FIP claims to represent about 5,000 pilots.
In a letter to Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) Arun Kumar, the FIP said that these test machines are often used on several individuals, some of whom may be infected without showing any symptoms.
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Also during the pandemic last year, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation temporarily suspended BA testing for all aviation personnel due to similar concerns.
“In light of the unprecedented surge in Covid-19 cases nationwide, Breath Alcohol Tests for aviation personnel are being requested to be temporarily suspended across your jurisdiction, immediately, to prevent the spread of infection – as your office did last year during the start of the first wave of the pandemic, ”FIP president Surinder Mehta said in the letter.
The copies of the letter are also marked to the civil aviation minister, secretary, civil aviation, and the health ministry as well as the director general, ICMR, among others.
The rules require that all airline personnel such as pilots, ground crew and air traffic controllers must undergo periodic breath analyzer (BA) tests.
The test is carried out by blowing into a tube to ensure that the crew has not consumed alcohol.
The FIP said that some of the factors that could exacerbate the risks associated with Covid include the viability of the coronavirus on BA testing equipment, all of which are often used on several individuals, and many could are now disproportionately infected.
Outdoor removal of potentially infected blast tubes in the testing area, by some operators could also increase the risk of spreading the virus, he said, adding that aircrew would be unmarked when undertaking the BA test and the risks from exposure to virus-laden aerosols (especially as the virus has now been proven to be in the air) could spread the virus further.
Besides, inadequately sanitized and poorly ventilated test rooms, which lead to touch points and virus-laden surfaces also pose a risk, FIP said.
The vital role that aircrew plays in the running of this strategically important industry, particularly for the convenient transportation of medical supplies and vaccines, makes it imperative that all preventive measures are now taken to prevent the disease to spread quickly among the aircrew and to ensure it runs smoothly. of aviation operations for public, commercial and national benefit, Mehta noted in the letter.