A pilot association is urging DGCA to stop testing a breath analyzer amid a Covid threat

MUMBAI: The Federation of Indian Pilots (FIP) on Thursday urged aviation regulator DGCA to temporarily suspend breath analyzer (BA) tests for aviation people with immediate effect to prevent 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 in multiple individuals, some of whom may be infected without showing symptoms.
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During the pandemic last year, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation also temporarily suspended BA tests for all aviation personnel due to similar concerns.
“In view of the unprecedented increase in Covid-19 cases across the country, it is requested that Respiratory Alcohol Tests for aviators be temporarily suspended through your jurisdiction, with immediate effect, to prevent the spread of infection – as your office did last year during the onset of the first wave of the pandemic, ”FIP president Surinder Mehta said in the letter.
The copies of the letter were also marked to the Minister of Civil Aviation, Secretary, Civil Aviation and Ministry of Health and also Director General, ICMR, among others.
According to the rules, all aviation personnel such as pilots, ground personnel and air traffic controllers must undergo breath analyzer (BA) tests from time to time.
The test is done by blowing into a tube to make sure the crew has not consumed alcohol.
The FIP said some of the factors that could exacerbate the Covid-related risks include sustainability of the coronavirus on BA test equipment, each of which is often used in multiple individuals, and many of which could now be asymptomatically infected.
Outdoor removal of potentially infected blowpipes in the test area, by some operators, could also increase the risk of spreading the virus, it said, adding that unmasking of flight crew during BA examination and consequent danger of exposure to virus-laden aerosols (especially because the virus now proved aerial) could also spread the virus further.
In addition, inadequately sterilized and poorly ventilated test rooms, resulting in virus-laden touchpoints and surfaces, are also at risk, FIP said.
The critical role played by flight crews in leading this strategically important industry, especially for the timely transportation of medical supplies and vaccines, requires that every precautionary measure be taken now to halt the rapid spread of the disease among flight crews and to ensure the good operation. on flight operations in the public, commercial and national interest, Mehta said in the letter.