Monday, May 04, 2020

Pilot flies medical supplies to many countries

Bengaluru: An Indian Air Force veteran, who now works as a commercial pilot, has been transporting hundreds of tonnes of medical supplies, equipment and other essential cargo across international borders every week since the lockdown began.

Kumar Veerappa Hiregoudar, a Haveri native, has operated over 20 cargo flights during the period, clocking up over 60 hours of flying.

With commercial flights suspended in major corners of the world in response to the coronavirus pandemic, many countries heavily depend on such flights for emergency supplies. On April 30, Kumar, 55, took an aircraft loaded with medical items to Hong Kong and the next day, he made a challenging nine-hour journey from Bengaluru to Shanghai and back. He has flown medical supplies, including testing kits and components used in respiratory systems, to Singapore, Bangkok, Colombo, Hong Kong, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, among other destinations.

“Unlike during normal times, there is no option of making a halt at the destination, which makes some journeys arduous,” Kumar said. “But fear is a state of mind. When the head and the heart are convinced that what you are doing could save lives, fear takes a back seat.”

Flying is an entirely different experience right now. “When you leave home (for the airport), the change in the atmosphere hits you like a brick. Roads are empty, the airport is empty and there are hardly any other planes in the air,” Kumar said. “When you are close to the destination, you find that there is no air traffic congestion — the air traffic controllers are, in fact, waiting only for you.”

All pilots operating such flights take stringent precautions. “Before landing in another country, we wear personal protection equipment. Before taking off from India and after landing at each destination, the entire aircraft is thoroughly cleaned and disinfected,” he said.
04/05/20 Swathy R Iyer/Times of India
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