Going Direct: 6 Rapidly Changing Things About Aviation In The Age Of The Coronavirus Pandemic

Changing things about aviation in the age of the coronavirus pandemic.
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The news of late has been sobering. President Trump had been aspirational in his calling for things to be back to normal by Easter, which falls on April 12th this year. How we all wish that would have happened. Instead the President called for restrictions to go through at least the end of April, though he didn’t say “at least.” That was me. But let’s face it. At this point, he knows it too. We’re in for the fight of our lives here.

6. The biggest story in aviation is air transport. While many pilots are soldiering on, some flying nearly empty planes from A to B for the sake of some obscure slot fulfillment scheme or something, many other pilots are off work. With some exceptions, they have not been furloughed but given leaves of absence, which makes a huge difference in how things go back to normal, if they do. If they don’t, a lot more pilots will suffer at that point.

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5. That point looks to be September, the month through which airlines need to keep staffing somewhat stable in order to fulfill their end of the $29 billion bailout the Federal government approved last week. But at that, as United made clear even before it had cashed its share of the bailout check, layoffs were going to happen shortly thereafter if business didn’t pick up. No one thinks United is the only carrier with such plans. They’re just the only one insensitive enough to say so soon after their customers wrote them a giant check to keep them afloat. That’s gratitude for you.

4. Speaking of gratitude, we would like to express ours to the men and women who make up the flight, cabin and ground crews for those flights that are flying, in many instances carrying precious cargo, test kits and other emergency supplies, along with, most important of all, doctors who are leaving their homes to serve on the front lines somewhere far from home. Heroes all, and we salute you.

3. Their work is even more heroic when you consider that many pilots, flight attendants and others are getting sick, which we reported on last week. How many is impossible to say, but today we do know that it’s a big number. All the information is gathered at a personal level, but so many of the people who have reached out to us say the same thing. Many of their friends are sick, and many of them have shared their sense that airlines are struggling to staff even the limited schedules they are offering.

2. Where do we go from here? Weeks ago we reported that talks about a nationwide shutdown of all airliners was being discussed at the highest levels. We stand by that story. And today more than ever that remains a possibility, especially now that new hot spots are on the rise, including Detroit and Chicago, which some are sadly predicting could be seeing New York City like rates of infection before long. With President Trump talking about shutting down the whole of New York City (a thought he backed off of soon after), and with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis instituting auto stops and quarantines for arriving airline passengers, we have to believe a shutdown to all non-essential airline flying is on the table. It would be a shame to extend that ban to GA as well, but that could happen, as well.

1. That’s because air traffic controllers are getting sick, too. Reports are that Houston TRACON shut down in recent days after a controller came down with COVID-19. The FAA was working to clean and reopen the facility, which operated from a remote location in the interim. (So let us add controllers to that list of folks we salute.) The NAS can’t shut down completely. Air transportation is just too critical to too much. But there might come a time before long that it needs to be operated at a reduced staffing level, and if that happens, GA will not likely be given any special consideration no matter how Class G our flying is. Our advice is, if you can legally and safely go flying now, you should probably go flying now. Who knows when you might not have that option.

And if we’re wrong, well, you got to do a little extra flying, and that’s always a good thing.

As always, be safe out there, friends.

 

 

 

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