WHITE KNIGHTS FIGHT COVID – III
PANAJI: The Indian Navy Squadron (INAS 310) located in INS Hansa which operates the Dorniers, undertook 33 sorties and over 60 hours of flying purely for providing COVID-19 support to Goa government while facing the restrictions imposed by the lockdown.
"The Indian Navy had been gearing up to be ready to face the brunt of any consequences of COVID-19 outbreak in India. The squadron was informed about a requirement to ferry some virus samples from Goa to NIV Pune on the very first day of the nationwide lockdown commencing March 20. We also anticipated more of such requirements coming our way considering the complete clampdown on road, rail and air transportation and prepared accordingly," Commanding Officer of INAS 310 told GT.
"While the squadron has been actively involved in aid to civil authorities on a regular basis, the COVID-19 pandemic threw a very unique set of challenges as were being faced at an international level."
- Commanding Officer INAS 310
The crew of INAS 310 has always been at the forefront of providing such assistance under the aegis of the Goa Naval Area and INS Hansa, recently seen during the devastating monsoon floods in Maharashtra in 2019.
"It was matter of great honour to be tasked with such responsibilities and the officers and men of the squadron immediately swung into action to live up to the expectations of the State Government and people of Goa. Due cognizance was made of directives from the higher echelons of the Indian Navy to ensure 100 per cent compliance to safety of men and material to prevent spread of the pandemic while undertaking such missions," the Commanding Officer said.
Informing about the selection of aircraft and pilots, the CO of INAS 310 said that as one of the workhorses of the Indian Navy, the Dornier aircraft are extremely adaptable, capable of being utilised for a wide variety of missions and tasks.
"All the aircrew and ground crew are always at the highest levels of training and readiness for any such requirements and as such, the entire squadron and its assets were available to be tasked as required," he said.
Aircraft and personnel were earmarked and specifically tasked to the extent feasible for such missions to limit exposure to the infection. It will be appreciated that the squadron was simultaneously undertaking regular operational tasking to ensure security of the high seas on the western seaboard to prevent inimical elements to take advantage of a critical situation. It was therefore critical to ensure 100 per cent availability of aircraft and crew at all times.
"As the days went by and more such missions were undertaken, the squadron learnt new lessons and kept tweaking the operating procedures for the best possible outcomes. While the squadron has been actively involved in aid to civil authorities on a regular basis, the COVID-19 pandemic threw a very unique set of challenges as were being faced at an international level," he said.
Intra-Navy tasking in addition to support to civil authorities led to situations wherein the aircrew had to operate at the limits of their fatigue limits, while the outside world had to remain in complete lockdown.
"These operations had to be undertaken while catering for the crew to also undergo mandatory quarantine. One of the key lessons was therefore how to effectively utilise assets with minimal manning and maximum output. To have been able to successfully undertake close to 70 hours of accident and incident free operations purely for COVID-19 support till date, while facing the restrictions imposed by the lockdown is an achievement in itself and provides tremendous encouragement to the personnel of INAS 310," he added.