COVID-19: DGCA Issues Guidelines to Operate Commercial Passenger Aircraft for Cargo-Only Operations

Amid a nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19, aviation regulator DGCA issued guidelines on Wednesday for airlines that plan to transport cargo such as medical equipment and essential goods using their commercial passenger aircraft. The DGCA circular said that "considering the extraordinary situation the country is facing, permission maybe given to scheduled and non-scheduled operators to use the available passenger category aircraft (without configuration change) for the carriage of cargo" under certain conditions.

The circular noted that permission must be taken first from Flight Standards and Airworthiness Directorate and then with Air Transport directorate in the DGCA. "Carriage of dangerous goods, including lithium batteries, oxygen canister shall not be allowed," the regulator noted.

If the airline plans to use passenger compartment to carry cargo, it has to make sure that it is in approved stowage locations such as closets and overhead bins, provided the load limitations are met, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said.

It added that any cargo stowed in passenger compartment has to be restrained and no items would be allowed to be stowed in lavatories or against bulkheads that are incapable of restraining them. Cargo must not be stowed in the passenger compartment where it will prevent or impede access to emergency equipment or interfere with emergency evacuation, the DGCA noted.

Any cargo on seats or under the seats shall be permitted only after specific permission taken in this regard from the regulator, the circular said. To stow items on seats, the aircraft operator would have to submit various details, including weight limitation of the seat, details of the specific box that would be on seat and procedure that would be followed to restrain that item on the seat, to the DGCA.

Till now, around 1,600 people have been infected by Coronavirus and 38 people have died due to it in India, according to the Union Health Ministry.

"With the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent lockdown in the country, there is a demand for cargo operations for transporting medical equipment and essential goods," the DGCA said in its circular.

India has imposed a 21-day lockdown to curb the spread of novel coronavirus, and domestic and international commercial passenger flights have been suspended for this period.

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