Rediff.com
Print this article

A pilot's last flight before the lockdown

March 25, 2020 15:39 IST

'Since it was the last day of flights, the feeling was weird. There were hardly any aircraft on the ground or in the air.'

An aircraft in flight

 

"We didn't have to hold, we just taxied, came to the runway and took off. It felt like what it used to be flying 20 years back," a pilot tells Archana Masih/Rediff.com.


I flew with 170 passengers yesterday, but the return flight was quite light. The Delhi-Mumbai sector has been seeing been 60-70 passengers, it seems as if people are running back to their bases.

It is our duty to fly. There is no way you can refuse. You have to behave like a soldier. At the same time, we are anxious because we have old parents and children at home.

I've had first officers tell me they have not held their 3-month-old babies for a week because they don't want to pass on the infection, if they have it.

They go, take a bath and sleep in the hall. It is difficult, but life has to go on, somebody has to do the job, right?

It is like our doctors and healthcare workers, housekeeping staff -- some jobs have to be done, so you take precautions and carry on.

We also have to protect ourselves because we are also coming back to our families.

I wash my hands, use sanitisers, leave my bag in a corner of the house when I get home and see that nobody touches it. I go straight have a shower, wash the clothes -- that's all that you can do.

Today when I was walking into my building, someone from another building called from behind "pilot, pilot". I guess it is in reference to news and video clippings of airline staff being harassed by neighbours etc.

My housing society group has been very supportive of doctors, pilots, airline crew. I think this harassment of airline, crew and doctors is a fallout of social media -- people who are sitting quietly also get provoked by it.

First it was with airline staff and now people are doing this with doctors -- imagine? This is shameful.

We have been trying to keep minimal contact with passengers, and other staff have been taking measures to keep the aircraft clean.

The government may be giving directions to keep distance at check in and security counters, but the public doesn't understand the seriousness of it.

Everybody is wearing a mask, but each one is climbing on the other one to board.

Yesterday when I returned, the arrival hall was like a fish market. I am not blaming passengers since it was was the last day and panic-stricken people were trying to get back home.

You could feel the fear in the atmosphere.

People are trying to get away from the city and return to native places like Patna, Ranchi, Raipur and Coimbatore.

Since it was the last day of flights, the feeling was weird. There were hardly any aircraft on the ground or in the air.

We didn't have to hold, we just taxied, came to the runway and took off. It felt like what it used to be flying 20 years back.

It was eerily quiet. At other times you would feel happy when there is no traffic, but not this time, it was sad feeling.

Our job as pilots is better than cabin crew and check-in staff. At least we can distance ourselves, but these young staff have no choice. They face the crowd. It's a tough job for them and they have done it well.

Many passengers could not even reach the airport because of the transport problem. Some flights were delayed because pilots could not reach in time because of non availability of taxis.

We have a revision in our roster. We have been told to stay at home and be safe.

ARCHANA MASIH