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Month: December 2020

Asymptomatic COVID-positive air crew would undergo home isolation for 10 days, DGCA says

Asymptomatic COVID-positive air crew would undergo home isolation for 10 days, DGCA says

Flight crew members who are asymptomatic but test positive for COVID-19 need to undergo home isolation for 10 days and once it is over, they can be declared fit for flying again by their medical supervisor, according to aviation regulator DGCA.

If COVID-positive crew members have ‘mild symptoms’, they will “continue home isolation and will stand discharged after 10 days of symptom onset and no fever for three days”, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said in a circular, adding there is no need for “testing after the home isolation period is over”.

However, if the isolation period for mildly symptomatic crew members is more than 14 days, they have to be examined by DGCA empanelled Class-1 examiner and crew is fit to fly if the examiner declares so, stated the circular that has been accessed by PTI.

The circular dated December 18, 2020, stated that COVID-positive flight crew members who are moderately and severely symptomatic need to undergo special medical examination — after their complete clinical recovery — at one of the Indian Air Force boarding centres to get the “cure certificate”.

“Once declared ‘fit for flying’ at the IAF boarding centre, the air crew can commence flying only after DGCA medical assessment is issued,” the circular added.

The regulator said the December 18 circular supersedes the June 22 circular which mentioned that only those cabin crew members who come in direct contact with a COVID-positive person onboard a flight will be sent for mandatory 14-day home quarantine.

The June 22 circular superseded a March 23 circular of the DGCA that had made it mandatory for the airlines to put the entire crew of a flight under home quarantine for 14 days in case anyone aboard was found to be COVID-positive.

Air India A320neo Attemped To Take Off From Wrong Runway

An Air India Airbus attempted to take off from the wrong runway in Chennai last month. The Airbus A320-200neo was heading for Delhi, but the pilots began accelerating down the wrong runway. The control tower spotted the error in time, and the take-off was aborted.The incident, which occurred on November 13, 2020, was reported in The Aviation Herald. According to that report, the aircraft was VT-EXM, and it was operating Air India flight AI554. That flight is the scheduled 21:30 departure from Chennai International Airport.According to the report in The Aviation Herald, the Airbus was cleared to depart from runway 25 but instead began rolling down runway 30. The control tower was able to stop the plane in time, aborting the takeoff.India’s Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) has reportedly begun an investigation into the incident. But the Bureau’s website does not provide information on current investigations or incidents.Air India has nearly 30 Airbus A320-200neos. The aircraft in question, VT-EXM, is less than three years old. This is the first known incident involving this aircraft.

The incident adds to the problems facing Air India. Most recently, an Air India Express Boeing 737 overshot the runway at Calicut International Airport in early August. There were 190 onboard, and 21 people died. At the time, India’s Civil Aviation Minister, Hardeep Singh Puri, said pilot competence was not an issue.

“We had a very accomplished, experienced, decorated person in command of the aircraft,” the Minister told The Business Standard.

That publication said the Captain of the ill-fated Boeing had 10,000 hours of flying experience on the Boeing 737 aircraft, more than half of that while in charge. The co-pilot had 1,728 hours of flying experience on the 737 aircraft.

Recently, an attempt to establish a judicial probe and a Central Bureau of India investigation into the accident failed at Kerala’s High Court.

While there were no reported injuries with the A320-200neo incident in November, an AAIB investigation suggests it is being taken seriously.

Problems at India’s aviation safety & investigation body?

But the AAIB faces its own in-house problems. When setting up a team to investigate the fatal Air India crash in August, the organization (a division of India’s Ministry of Civil Aviation) sidelined its own people in favor of external experts. Only one person on the five-member panel investigating the Calicut Airport crash is from the AAIB.

This is despite the AAIB reputedly having several dozen in-house experts, including safety personal, pilots, other crew members, and investigators.

But a source with the AAIB told Outlook India in August that the AAIB wasn’t up to the job.

“In the past eight years, we haven’t been able to enrich AAIB with adequate and competent manpower. This is a mockery of aircraft accident investigation in India. It looks like the country doesn’t have a single competent investigator to investigate the Calicut crash.

That source wasn’t prepared to put his or her name to the quote. But even if half right, it flags a possible problem within India’s premier airline accident and incident investigations body. It also suggests we might never really know why the pilots on AI554 in November started to take-off on the wrong runway.

Why drones have raised the odds and risks of small wars

This use of relatively disposable drones has created an offence-defence balance in real-life wars that is more typical of cyberspace, where the attacker has a distinct cost advantage.

Amajor hero of two recent conflicts — in Libya and in Nagorno-Karabakh — isn’t even human. It’s an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), or drone, called the Bayraktar TB2 and made by Baykar, a Turkish company in which President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s son-in-law, Selcuk Bayraktar, serves as the chief technical officer.

In Libya last year, the TB2 scored some successes against a vaunted Russian anti-aircraft system, Pantsir, helping the United Nations-recognized government of Fayez al-Sarraj hold Tripoli against the onslaught of General Khalifa Haftar, who had armed himself with the Pantsirs.

In Nagorno-Karabakh this fall, the same drone was instrumental in unleashing hell on Armenian tanks, artillery and, again, some Russian-made anti-aircraft equipment. It helped bring about Azerbaijan’s decisive victory and a Moscow-brokered peace deal that returned to Azerbaijan most of the territory it lost in a previous war in the 1990s.

That UAVs can play such a visible part in modern wars is a big part of their appeal. As Ulrike Franke of the European Council on Foreign Relations, whose area of expertise includes drone warfare, pointed out in a Twitter thread, “using drones is like having a film crew with you.” The footage filmed by the unmanned aircraft as they attack is often used by governments for propaganda purposes, and it’s far more convincing than the usual conflicting claims by belligerents; independent observers use it to verify the reports.

An even bigger advantage, however, comes from how Turkey and its allies — the al-Sarraj government and the Azerbaijani regime of President Ilham Aliyev — have used drones to upset the offense-defense balance. Whether or not you subscribe to the theory that wars will be fought when the cost of attacking is much lower than the cost of defending, it is both intuitively clear and experimentally proven that losing a drone, or two or three, is less painful, and carries a lower cost, than losing a tank or a manned aircraft. Sending drones into battle is a lot like playing a computer game — and indeed, gamers may make better UAV operators than trained pilots. In both the Libyan and Karabakh wars, the drone operators apparently took a lot of risks to figure out the opposing side’s vulnerabilities, caring relatively little if they lost a UAV or two along the way.

In addition to the relatively costly TB2s — the price tag is several million dollars apiece, not including control centers — Azerbaijan used pretty much anything that could fly, including old Soviet An-2 agricultural planes refitted into UAVs. It also bought kamikaze drones from Israel.

This use of relatively disposable drones has created an offense-defense balance in real-life wars that is more typical of cyberspace, where the attacker has a distinct cost advantage (though some argue that’s mostly because defenders just aren’t nimble enough). Playing whack-a-mole against drones is a lot like chasing hackers.

The shift toward PlayStation reality isn’t necessarily reshaping hypothetical conflicts between major military powers. Superiority in traditional aircraft can still trump the drone advantage. The defense lobby has an interest in continuing to make and sell expensive manned aircraft, and the U.S. and Russia will continue to buy and upgrade them because of the planes’ range and sheer destructive power. But, as Franke pointed out, “for smaller states, which do have air forces, but only have a limited number of aircraft — as is the case for both Armenia and Azerbaijan — drones are quite an important contribution because they boost aerial capabilities.”

Drones, however, can be a nuisance to major powers — just ask Russia. Anyone can build a drone, as Islamist militants proved in Syria when they sent a swarm of basic UAVs against the Russian base in Hmeimim, Syria, in 2018. The attack was thwarted, but it made clear that less protected targets could be hit in a similar fashion.

The rise of the drone has also created a problem for Russia by sowing doubts about its anti-aircraft systems — one of the country’s biggest defense exports. Armenia bet on these products (although perhaps not the best or most modern ones) and lost. After the Pantsir ran into trouble in Libya, the Russian military’s official weekly Zvezda denied the Pantsir’s humiliating vulnerability to the Turkish drones; yet even as it did so, it allowed that the anti-aircraft system has a “blind zone” that an adversary can learn to penetrate.

The Russian propaganda machine has taken pains to reassure the populace, and the Russian defense industry’s clients, that the country has an answer to the UAV threat. Various websites have spread stories about the use of the Krasukha-4 electronic warfare system to help Armenia avoid a total defeat. The Krasukha, first deployed in Syria in 2015, jams radar and GPS signals as well as other electronic communications. Theoretically, it can render drones helpless. Whether it was really used in the Karabakh war was never officially confirmed; General Movses Hakobyan, a top Armenian military official who resigned after the defeat, said Armenia managed to thwart the Bayraktar TB2 for four days when given the use of a different, newer Russian electronic warfare system, Pole-21, first received by the Russian military last year.

But while Russia has emphasized developing its capacity for such electronic warfare, its effectiveness against tactics pioneered by Turkey and its allies is unclear. Jamming, for instance, could devolve into just another game of whack-a-mole.

Ukrainians, for one, see some potential in using drones against Russia-backed forces. Last year, Ukraine signed a $69 million deal with Baykar to buy six TB2s, control equipment and ammunition. Ukraine is now reportedly working with the Turkish company to launch local production. The example of Azerbaijan’s successful attack on Karabakh is inspiring to Ukrainian leaders, who haven’t given up on reclaiming the country’s east, now controlled by pro-Russian separatists.

Russia, however, isn’t the only major military power that should worry about the proliferation of drones. Any country or military bloc that conducts overseas operations and gets involved in local conflicts will likely have to deal with the growing threat. According to a study by Michael Horowitz of the University of Pennsylvania and his collaborators, of the 22 countries that possess armed drones now, 19 have acquired them since 2010, and 14 since 2014, most of them thanks to the “supply shock” of China’s 2011 entry into the market. More than 20 other countries are pursuing the capability, Horowitz found. It is, among other things, a pursuit of status: Drones are synonymous with technological innovation.

Intervention in the deadly computer games of tomorrow could be fraught with embarrassment, or worse, for the big players. And, if the offense-defense balance theory is correct, such interventions will be called for more frequently: Going on the attack is no longer as scary or as expensive as it used to be.- Bloomberg

In addition to the relatively costly TB2s — the price tag is several million dollars apiece, not including control centers — Azerbaijan used pretty much anything that could fly, including old Soviet An-2 agricultural planes refitted into UAVs. It also bought kamikaze drones from Israel.

This use of relatively disposable drones has created an offense-defense balance in real-life wars that is more typical of cyberspace, where the attacker has a distinct cost advantage (though some argue that’s mostly because defenders just aren’t nimble enough). Playing whack-a-mole against drones is a lot like chasing hackers.


How India plans to manage its growing drone air traffic in the years to come

The Ministry of Civil Aviation released a draft policy Tuesday to develop an air traffic management system for civilian drones or Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS).

The draft policy, called UAS Traffic Management (UTM) Ecosystem, mainly applies to drones flying 1,000 feet above ground level in uncontrolled airspaces.

It is expected to coordinate drone flight paths, manage traffic and provide weather and terrain data as an “extension of the current Air Traffic Management (ATM) Services”.

“Drones will soon need to fly alongside manned aircrafts and high levels of aviation safety should be maintained in such scenarios,” Joint Secretary of the Ministry of Civil Aviation Amber Dubey told ThePrint.

In June, the government had issued the Draft Unmanned Aircraft System Rules, 2020, which if passed, will replace the existing Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR) enacted in 2018.

Unlike CAR, the Draft UAS Rules are more exhaustive and make a clear distinction between drone regulations and other regulations that apply to conventional manned aviation.

What are drones and who can fly them

A drone is an aerial device that can navigate without a human on board or beyond line of sight. In India, drones are used for entertainment and recreational purposes, wedding photography and research but cannot be flown in ‘No Fly Zones’ such as areas near airports, international borders, State Secretariat Complex in State Capitals, strategic locations, etc.

There are three kinds of drones — Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAs) piloted from a remote pilot station, Model Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems used for educational or experimental purposes only within visual line of sight and Autonomous Unmanned Aircraft System that does not require pilot intervention.

Based on weight, ‘nano’ drones are less than or equal to 250gm, ‘micro’ drones are between 250gm-2kg, ‘small’ drones are between 2-25kg, ‘medium’ drones are between 25-150kg and ‘large’ drones are greater than 150kg.

Nano drones are usually the size of a human hand and are flown indoors.