Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Piloting a new normal to take people places

Some of us have already experienced how flying has changed ever since limited domestic flights were allowed on May 25. Equally significant have been the changes for the cockpit crew. And like fliers, cockpit crew members too are getting used to the new normal.

As with passengers, for pilots too, the new normal kicks in even before they reach the airport and carries on at the destination airport as well.
While fliers have to do check-in and get printouts of their boarding cards and baggage tags before they leave for the airport, pilots at IndiGo spend time at home reading the documents that they will need for the flight three hours before the flight time.
This is being done to ensure that the pilots do not spend unnecessary time in the flight dispatch section at the airport.

According to Captain Ashim Mittra, Senior Vice-President, Flight Operations, IndiGo, this helps save a “good 20 to 25 minutes” at the airport. The dress code for pilots has changed too. To the earlier tie and cap have been added face masks and shields and gloves.

The way the pilots are driven to the airport has changed as well. Says Captain Mittra, “In the normal course, the driver would come, may be you would chat with him, put on your seat belt and go. Now, we have a screen that is like a divider or a sort of a cabin for the driver. It is a plastic screen and half the air-conditioning goes to the driver and half to the pilot.”

Once pilots reach the airport, their flight bags are sanitised using ultra violet rays and their Aarogya Setu apps checked for body temperature. Here, the pilots take off their face masks for a fraction of a second and display the airport entry pass.

“The CISF has to identify that the person walking in uniform is the one who is the holder of the airport pass,” explains Captain Rajesh Malik, Chief Pilot A-320 fleet, Vistara.

He adds that the only other time that the pilots briefly remove the mask is at the security or departure gate so that security can identify them.

Captain Malik also says that the airline has increased the reporting time for cockpit crew members for domestic flights to 90 minutes, from 60 minutes earlier. This is in compliance with the Standard Operation Procedures that the crew should be able to complete the pre-flight requirements and be in the cockpit before boarding is announced, so that social distancing norms are maintained.

Gone are the days when the cockpit crew would have a one-on-one meeting with the cabin attendants. Now they use the interphone for this conversation. On IndiGo flights, the flight deck doors remain closed from the time passengers board till they disembark. Only one crew member is permitted to interact with the pilots at any given time, keeping the area non-congested.

The flight deck is also disinfected whenever pilots change or as required between flights. This is done in the presence of one of the airline’s pilots or engineers and records are maintained.
23/06/20 Ashwini Phadnis/Business Line
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