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Coronavirus in India: Air India flight takes off for Wuhan, expected back in Delhi after 2 am Saturday | India Business News


NEW DELHI: The Air India special flight has taken off from Delhi for Wuhan to evacuate Indians from the epicentre of the deadly coronavirus outbreak. The AI Boeing 747 took off at 1.18 pm and will reach Wuhan in just less than 6 hours. It is expected to leave Wuhan after 10 pm (local time) and be back in Delhi by 2 am, Saturday. Wuhan-Delhi will take about 45 minutes more than the outbound journey due to headwinds.

The jumbo jet (VT-ESP) “Ajanta” first took off from Mumbai at 9.01 am as AI 1348 for Delhi from where five doctors from the health ministry will board the aircraft with all medicines required for the evacuees. “The flight from Delhi will have 4 pilots, 15 cabin crew, three engineers, five commercial staff, two security-men and one despatch official — in all 33 people AI staffers. AI director operations Captain Amitabh Singh will be onboard to supervise this special flight. All these people will wear the full protective suit on landing in Wuhan, before opening the aircraft door there,” said sources.

Being a special evacuation flight, AI has made arrangements keeping in mind the health concerns. The crew and others on board will take all precautions. A meal box will be kept on each seat for passengers with no additional service to minimize contact with the crew. Two lavs will be kept only for the crew.

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AI chairman Ashwani Lohani, who was at the airport when the special flight landed in Delhi, tweeted: “The national carrier once again comes to the rescue – this time to evacuate Indians from Wuhan, the site of the outbreak of coronavirus. This mission begins today with a Jumbo 747 operating between Delhi and Wuhan. Jai Hind”

The B747-400 was initially supposed to leave from Mumbai for Wuhan and fly back to Delhi. But that was changed to take the necessary men and material from Delhi.

In a statement titled “once again Air India stands with nation,” AI said: “A team of five doctors from RML Hospital, one paramedical staff from AI with prescribed medicine from doctors, masks, overcoats, packed food are boarded in the aircraft. A team of engineers, security personnel are also there in this special aircraft. The entire rescue mission is led by Captain Amitabh Singh, AI’s director (operation).”

“AI has done such evacuations earlier also from Libya, Iraq, Yemen, Kuwait and Nepal. In August, 1990, AI and erstwhile Indian Airline evacuated more than one lakh Indians from Iraq and Kuwait via 488 flights in 59 days, created world record for the largest aerial evacuation since 1948-49. Air India successfully accomplished ‘operation Rahat’ (Yemen) in 2015 as well as operation ‘safe homecoming’ in 2011. AI also participated extensively during national crisis like Bhuj Earthquake, Jammu & Kashmir, Leh, Chennai and Uttarakhand floods and tsunami at Andaman Nicobar,”AI spokesman Dhananjay Kumar said.

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