NEW DELHI: An Air India pilots' union on Monday suggested to aviation regulator DGCA that COVID-positive pilots grounded for over 14 days should be allowed to fly after being declared negative by an approved medical examiner as the current protocol makes them unavailable for duty for six months.
"This (proposed solution) will ensure that precious human resources are not wasted," The Indian Commercial Pilots' Association (ICPA) said in a letter.
It said that if a pilot is tested positive for COVID-19, he goes on a mandatory 14-day "sick" leave and then he has to go for a special medical examination in New Delhi or Bengaluru.
This process takes at least three months, and then he heads for a medical assessment by the DGCA and that takes at least three more months, it said.
"To sum up, a pilot who tests positive will not be available for flying duties for at least 6 months. We may soon have a situation where hundreds of pilots are not available for flying duties due to the aforementioned problems," said T Praveen Keerthi, General Secretary, ICPA.
The ICPA consists of pilots who fly narrow-body aircraft for Air India.
"At this juncture, we wish to propose a pragmatic solution to the problems mentioned above: First, allow pilots who have been grounded for more than 14 days due to COVID-19 infection to appear for the medical examination at any of the DGCA empanelled Class I medical examiners. Who may issue a medical certificate in CA Form 35," Keerthi said.
This means the pilot should be allowed to resume flying duties if his CA 35 mentions COVID-negative.
"Allow the pilot to resume flying duties based on CA 35 without having to wait for the medical assessment," Keerthi added.
A number of pilots and cabin crew members have tested positive for the novel coronavirus during the last few weeks.
However, the airline has not issued any statement on this matter yet.
Keerthi said in the letter: "This (proposed solution) will ensure that precious human resources are not wasted and will be in the true spirit of finding solutions to problems as invoked in the speech of our Honourable Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi ji and also empower the Class I medical examiners to be 'Aatmanirbhar'."
India resumed its domestic flight operations from May 25 after a gap of two months due to the coronavirus lockdown.
Scheduled international passenger flights continue to remain suspended in the country.
However, on May 7, the Modi government started the Vande Bharat Mission to bring back Indians stranded abroad due to the coronavirus travel restrictions.
Air India and its subsidiary Air India Express have operated more than 150 international repatriation flights under this mission.
The novel coronavirus has infected more than 1.9 lakh people and killed around 5,300 people in India till now.