Sunday, March 08, 2020

Coronavirus scare: Aircraft cockpits to be disinfected too now

Mumbai: While aircraft passenger cabins are cleaned and disinfected according to laid-down procedures to combat the spread of coronavirus, there were no procedures in place to disinfect the flight deck used by pilots, till Saturday evening. Late in the evening, following concerns from pilots, director-general of civil aviation issued guidelines to airlines to clean and disinfect aircraft cockpits too.
Pilots could catch infection from passengers as they use the same lavatories when on board aircraft. An asymptomatic pilot or an engineer working on the aircraft could leave behind a load of pathogens on contact surfaces in a cockpit, infecting the next set of pilots who walk in.
"Airlines should have a procedure to disinfect the cockpit, the way they have to disinfect passenger cabins. There have to be safeguards. An airline can decide how often they do it and how they do it but there have to be guidelines,'' said Capt Amit Singh, a senior aviation professional.
Director-general of civil aviation Arun Kumar, when contacted by TOI for a comment, looked into the matter and issued instructions to airlines on Saturday night. DGCA's instructions state: "There is a concern amongst pilots that the cleaning, disinfecting of cockpit is not of the same level as cabin. While it is understood that cockpit is much more sterile than cabin area, however all operators are to ensure that cockpit is properly cleaned/disinfected at every given opportunity and cockpit crew are provided with adequate hand sanitizer for their use and also to keep frequent contact area clean (thrust levers, control wheel, tiller, etc) and disinfected within the cockpit. when they feel the need. Also for personal use, post accessing common areas like toilet.'' Till now, in the absence of guidelines, airlines had their own practices.
A commander with a low-cost carrier said, "Following the coronavirus outbreak, I've started carrying a sanitiser and disinfectant and wipe down contact surfaces on entering the cockpit.'' He added that his airline "doesn't even provide wet wipes, let alone an antiseptic wipe'' when they ask for it, to clean and disinfect control surfaces in the cockpit.
08/03/20 Times of India
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