A senior Air India pilot who operated flights under the government’s Vande Bharat Mission (VBM) and cargo flights, lost battle to Covid-19 on Sunday. The 54-year-old, Capt. Amitesh Prasad who operated Boeing 777, was a resident of Kandivli and had last landed in Bangalore on April 15. He, however, complained of symptoms after reaching Mumbai and tested positive on April 20, after which, he was immediately admitted to the hospital.
An Air India official said, “His last flight was AI 176, San Francisco, to Bangalore. He landed in India on April 15 and tested positive on April 20 and was moved to the hospital shortly after.”
A pilot’s friend said that Capt. Prasad was involved in several cargo flights in the initial stage of the pandemic, flying emergency supplies from China. “He also operated several Vande Bharat flights throughout the pandemic. He breathed his last at 1.30am on Sunday in KJ Somaiya Hospital, Sion,” the pilot said.
A statement issued by Indian Pilot’s Guild (IPG) read, “Amitesh was loved by all for his gentle nature. We are blessed to have been able to call him our colleague and friend. Amitesh has faithfully served Air India since December 1995 where he joined Flight Despatch. Over the years he worked hard and made his way to the rank of Commander on the Boeing777 fleet. He was actively involved in flying cargo missions to Shanghai and Guangzhou when the pandemic struck last year. And has been flying Vande Bharat flights to the US and back until he recently fell ill with Covid-19.”
Capt. Prasad is succeeded by his wife, who is also undergoing treatment for Covid at the hospital, and his two teenaged children.
Air India officials said that the wife is currently stable. Close pilot friends said that Capt. Prasad’s daughter is studying in Canada and his 15-year-old son studying in the city and is currently residing with his relatives.
Air India pilots said that the frontliners are not given priority for vaccination, which has been communicated to the management by both the pilots’ unions. While IPG, union of Boeing pilots, wrote to the Air India management on April 28, the Indian Commercial Pilot’s Association, an Airbus pilots union warned to stop work, if the management does not start a vaccination drive and if pilots are not given priority.
“He is the second pilot to lose his battle to Covid, in Air India. The previous pilot, however, was not flying while he contracted Covid,” said an Air India official.
“We have been risking our lives to fly for the nation. Despite the pandemic claiming lives and difficulty in even getting treatment due to lack of medical infrastructure, the management has not begun vaccination drives. We have been assured that they will conduct the vaccination drive from May 15, however, this should have been done at least a month earlier,” said a senior Air India pilot.
“However, in due fairness, after the pilot was admitted, the airline’s medical staff did everything they could, to help Capt. Prasad,” he added.
This is not it. Air India also lost its maintenance engineer on Sunday. 41-year-old Johnson Turkey, a Kolkata based engineer also succumbed to Covid-19 on Sunday morning.