The coronavirus pandemic has begun to affect the general aviation community. Stay up to date with the latest news about flight operations, changes to scheduled events, and more on this breaking news briefs page.
The Civil Air Patrol logged “10,000 volunteer days of support,” the equivalent of more than $2 million of donated services during operations in the first 70 days of response to the coronavirus pandemic, the organization announced. Cadets and volunteer adults delivered personal protective equipment and COVID-19 test kits, prepared meals, staffed emergency operation centers, and more during ongoing relief efforts.
Four Douglas C–47 Skytrain aircraft and crew that participated in 2019 D-Day remembrances in the United States and abroad will participate in a Memorial Day weekend flyover of Southern California to salute veterans and frontline coronavirus healthcare workers May 25. Led by the C–47 D-Day Doll of the Commemorative Air Force’s Inland Empire Wing, the “Operation SoCal Strong” mission route begins at 12 p.m. Pacific time and includes medical centers, general aviation airports, and military and civilian memorial sites. A western New York flyover performed May 16 by the National Warplane Museum and dubbed “Operation Thanks from Above” was part of ongoing GA tributes to honor those on the frontline of the coronavirus pandemic. A future flight is planned for June 6, the seventy-sixth anniversary of D-Day.
With health precautions in place, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University plans to reopen residential campuses in Florida and Arizona for face-to-face instruction on June 30. The reopening focuses on statistical risk testing, risk mitigation, support for contact tracing, and education, the school announced in a May 21 news release. Additional precautions include daily health wellness checks, color-coded wristbands, “hold short” lines posted at common areas, thorough aircraft sanitation, and a best practices guide. The coronavirus pandemic halted operations in March.
Aviation Supplies and Academics is extending reduced prices on Prepware Online and Online Ground School material, and the free Prepware School offer to qualifying schools through August 31. The original offer was set to expire May 31.
Sling Pilot Academy, based in Torrance, California, is offering a free, eight-week online instrument ground school with lessons that are distributed and archived through the Zoom platform. The initiative began May 18 and is part of the school’s outreach to provide those staying at home with an opportunity to learn new skills.
Aviation Supplies and Academics prepared a free, downloadable document outlining how to clean and disinfect pilot supplies and books without damaging them. The document provides specific recommendations for headsets, flight computers, plotters, books, and logbooks.
The FAA UAS Symposium, organized by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International on the FAA’s behalf, is moving online. AUVSI announced May 12 that the fifth annual iteration of the event (originally planned as an in-person gathering in Baltimore in June) will be held virtually. Registration remains open, and additional details will be forthcoming, AUVSI said.
The National Aviation Hall of Fame enshrinement dinner and ceremony, originally scheduled for September 26, has been postponed, but no new date has been set. In addition to rescheduling the 2020 enshrinement ceremony, the group’s board of trustees is postponing selection of the 2021 class to ensure that the 2020 honorees receive the kind of recognition to which “enshrinees, attendees, members and sponsors have become accustomed.”
An online celebration is planned for the 754 Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University class of 2020 graduates at the university’s Daytona Beach, Florida, campus during continued coronavirus pandemic restrictions. Rather than walking across a stage for commencement exercises, graduates will see congratulatory messages posted on a virtual celebration page. A postponed in-person commencement ceremony is scheduled for December 2020.
AOPA’s regional managers have compiled a state-by-state guide to travel and general aviation restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic. Click on each state for information including stay-at-home orders, restrictions or exemptions for aviation, and local resources to check before flying. The information will be updated as warranted. Learn more >
A group of pilots in Michigan established an online presence that allows medical professionals to order personal protective equipment including clear plastic face shields that pilots are helping deliver to front line workers at hospitals. The aviation group has fielded 250 requests for face shields and delivered more than 11,000 to date.
Savvy Aviation is making 24/7 general aviation aircraft breakdown assistance service available free of charge through at least June 30. Participants can enroll online to receive a toll-free hotline number for breakdown assistance. “We are committed to do whatever we can to help keep the GA fleet flying during this difficult period,” said the service’s founder Mike Busch.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Experimental Aircraft Association canceled EAA Air Academy, a series of weeklong summer camps for youth ages 12 to 18 with hands-on activities and lodging at the EAA Air Academy Lodge in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The association wrote on its website that the “enormously difficult decision” was made to maintain the health and safety of campers.
Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics, an aviation maintenance college that Forbes ranked as the top two-year trade school in 2018, transitioned to online classes as of March 30; however, students must wait until in-person classes resume to complete their aviation training, the magazine reported. Federal aviation regulations require maintenance applicants to pass certain practical, oral, and written certification tests before they can work in the field.
Zipline, the San Francisco company that built a network of delivery drones in Africa, announced April 20 the completion of the first deliveries of COVID-19 test samples collected from patients in outlying communities to laboratories in Accra, the capital of Ghana. “Using contactless drone delivery to transport COVID-19 test samples will allow the government to respond to the pandemic and help save lives more quickly,” Zipline CEO Keller Rinaudo said in a news release. Zipline’s delivery routes connect more than 1,000 health facilities across Ghana, and the company said the sample delivery flights that began April 17 all exceeded 70 miles round trip. Zipline has a similar network in Rwanda and hopes to gain FAA approval to conduct pandemic response missions in the United States.
Light sport aircraft manufacturer Pipistrel announced online aircraft type training courses—normally priced at $160 each—accessible free of charge through June 30. In an appeal to pilots, student pilots, and aviation enthusiasts to further their knowledge base and gain additional piloting skills during stay-at-home orders, the Pipistrel Academy has unlocked six courses. Available for the Alpha Electro, Alpha Trainer, and various models of the Virus SW, the courses include text, illustrations, and videos that teach flying techniques and operational procedures for each aircraft. Register for the training courses online. Click on the “Create new account” link at the top of the page, and use enrollment key “FlyPipistrel” to receive the discount.
The instructional staff at Sporty’s Academy developed a PC-, Mac-, and mobile-friendly electronic flight instructor refresher course (eFIRC) that is available to CFIs at no charge during the coronavirus pandemic. The eFIRC contains 16 lessons broken down into learning modules, with an included library for quick access to flight standards, documents, regulations, and more.
The Aircraft Electronics Association canceled its March convention and trade show due to the coronavirus, so the association is instead offering a series of webinars to keep members informed on regulatory topics. Four webinars are scheduled through May, and more sessions will be added later in the spring.
Maui Flight Academy in Hawaii is providing private pilot and instrument ground schools at no charge during the coronavirus pandemic. The offer includes 20 hours of video, 10 days of live Q&A preparation, 250 practice questions, and more. Gold Seal flight instructor Laurence Balter and his wife Regina were highlighted in the March issue of AOPA Pilot magazine.
FlyRight, an FAA-approved Part 142 training center in Charlotte, North Carolina, specializing in King Air pilot training, is offering free flight simulator training through May 15 to assist career pilots affected by the COVID-19 commercial air slowdown. Pilots can participate in half-day FAA-approved multiengine or single-engine Level C or D full flight simulator training, and landing currency training.
The Ohio State University flight team halted flight training in March and moved to a 100-percent virtual learning environment for the remainder of the spring semester and the upcoming summer term. An email to students and supporters reminded students that while competitive experience is important, networking and sharing a passion “are truly the reason why we are here.” The school plans to host the 2022 national flight competition for collegiate aviators.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published coronavirus protection guidelines for airport businesses and employees. Aircraft maintenance, customer service, baggage and cargo handling, custodial, and passenger assistance functions are included in the procedures and highlighted on the CDC’s coronavirus disease website.
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University temporarily ceased flight operations on its Daytona Beach, Florida, and Prescott, Arizona, campuses in keeping with 30-day stay-at-home orders for nonessential personnel imposed by those states’ governors. Residential students who were approved to remain in residence halls may shelter in place, and daily wellness checks are required for anyone visiting the campuses, the university posted on its website.
American Flyers leaders assured students, employees, and aviation enthusiasts that the flight school is adhering to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines while performing essential infrastructure flight training called out by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. A letter that was sent to industry personnel stressed that general aviation flight training was “critical to our nation’s emergency response plans,” and the company pledged to continue assisting the medical industry during the coronavirus pandemic.
Online aviation employment service JSfirm.com is tracking a 32-percent increase in overall website traffic compared with 2019 figures despite an industrywide hiring downturn during the coronavirus pandemic. The company recently rolled out a passive job feature that allows career seekers to “leave their resume” for a company that may not currently be hiring but will be soon. Executive Director Abbey Hutter said the new feature will “ultimately allow companies to hit the ground running with hiring once the dust settles.”
Triple Tree Aerodrome in Woodruff, South Carolina, canceled all events through September, including the Young Aviators Fly-In scheduled for June 19 to 21, and Joe Nall Week for remote-control aviators May 8 to 16. Executive Director Robb Williams noted a “social and moral responsibility” to provide a safe environment for volunteers, attendees, vendors, and staff during the coronavirus pandemic. He did not rule out fall events, which include the Triple Tree Fly-In September 21 to 27, Nall in the Fall October 3 to 10, and Heli Extravaganza, October 14 to 18.
The coronavirus is affecting air traffic control personnel, resulting in reduced staffing and even unplanned facility closures. This AOPA Air Safety Institute safety notice details preflight planning pilots need to conduct as well as steps to take if flying into an airport with an unplanned tower closure.
The National Intercollegiate Flight Association canceled Safecon 2020, the national flight competition scheduled for May 18 to 23 at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, because of the coronavirus pandemic. The annual event event tests landing, navigation, preflight, and flight planning skills; crew-based simulations; safety; and sportsmanship. It will take place between April 1 and June 1, 2021, per the association’s guidelines, and will be hosted at the Oshkosh airfield.
Wheels Up founder and CEO Kenny Dichter is tapping his long list of celebrity customers to help Feeding America cope with rising demand. Dichter appeared with one of his high-profile clients, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, on CNBC to announce that Wheels Up has pledged a donation to cover 10 million meals, in partnership with its clients, to help the charity respond to the pandemic.
SiriusXM teamed up with NYU Langone Health to launch a channel dedicated to news regarding the coronavirus pandemic. Channel 121 will broadcast information about the coronavirus 24/7 and is free. Pilots can also listen online.
Patient Airlift Services announced March 23 that it was canceling all flights for 30 days because of the coronavirus. The organization “arranges fee air transportation for individuals requiring medical diagnosis, treatment or follow-up, for compassionate assistance, for military personnel/family requests,” the website states. Now in its tenth year, PALS has arranged more than 22,000 flights. “This difficult decision comes after careful consideration of the best interests of everyone in the PALS family,” said PALS Executive director Donna Collins. The organization said it would reevaluate flight status after the 30-day period.
Embraer, the Brazilian aircraft manufacturer of Phenom and Praetor business jets, is collaborating with medical specialists to produce respirator and ventilator technology, air filtration systems, and other measures to help combat the coronavirus pandemic in Brazil. The company announced plans March 25 “to start the production of parts next week, in response to the emergency demand for this equipment.”
Redbird Flight Simulations will offer a weekly aviation-focused, virtual class for middle and high school students for the next six weeks, beginning March 31. The lessons will be led by Redbird Director of STEM Education,Greg Roark, also known to youth as “Mr. R.” The classes will be available at no charge and a simulator is not necessary. “This will be a lot like the STEM lab we've run in our booth at AirVenture, just virtual,” said Redbird Vice President of Marketing Josh Harnagel.
AOPA Vice President of Airports and State Advocacy Mike Ginter briefed Airport Support Network members March 24 on measures AOPA is taking, and not taking, in response to the coronavirus pandemic. AOPA is raising awareness among state leaders about the vital functions of the public airport system, however we are not treating event cancellations or airport service interruptions as federal grant violations in consideration of the circumstances.
Virginia Department of Aviation Director Mark Flynn told AOPA Live that the state is working with the isolated community on Tangier Island in the Chesapeake Bay and asking pilots to avoid flying to this community that has remained, so far, free of COVID-19 infection, and whose residents are eager to keep it that way.
“We’re asking pilots to be good citizens,” Flynn said. While the FAA is considering the community’s request to close the public-use airport, that is not easily accomplished given federal laws and regulations that apply to public airports.
MyGoFLight reminded pilots via email that bacteria and other germs can live on glass surfaces of phones and iPads “for up to nine days.” The firm recommended safe screen-cleaning procedures but advised repeated use “may remove its oleophobic and hydrophobic coatings that keep oil and water from damaging the display.” First, power the devices off, then use a “70 percent isopropyl alcohol (not straight alcohol) disinfectant directly on a soft lint-free cloth or disinfectant wipes, like Clorox sheets,” making sure to avoid ports or openings where moisture may seep in. The company’s protective covers for handheld devices are currently discounted 20 percent.
The Farnborough International Airshow in the United Kingdom has been canceled as the global coronavirus outbreak worsens. It had been scheduled for July 20 to 24. The global pandemic made it “impossible” for airshow officials to create and host the event. “We understand this news will be an incredible disappointment to all across the international aerospace industry, not to mention our important exhibitors, suppliers and visitors,” event organizers said. “We at Farnborough International share your disappointment that we are unable to present the Airshow as planned.” Airshow officials pledged to make the 2022 event “better than ever.”
Even Alaska, with its vast wilderness, isn’t immune to the coronavirus. The Alaska Airmen’s Association announced March 20 that it was canceling the Great Alaska Aviation Gathering scheduled for May 2 and 3. The event signals the beginning of the spring flying season in Alaska and draws attendees from across the United States.
Aviation Supplies and Academics announced March 19 that it is temporarily waiving or reducing prices for aviation study material to assist those who are limiting their social exposure, including students. “The ability to study and exchange information remotely should relieve some of the burden students and educators are experiencing during this difficult time,” the Seattle-based publishing company wrote in a news release. Prepware School, normally $295, is free to qualifying schools. Private Pilot Online Ground School and Instrument Pilot Online Ground School materials were discounted $100 each, while Prepware Online was reduced by $20. Contact ASA directly for more information.
The Above and Beyond Gala to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Patient Airlift Services has been rescheduled to August 13 in Long Island, New York. The PALS nonprofit, founded in 2010, arranges free air transportation for individuals requiring medical diagnosis, treatment, or follow-up who cannot afford or are unable to fly commercially.
The retail locations for aviation shopping powerhouses Sporty’s Pilot Shop and Aircraft Spruce and Specialty Co. are open as of March 18, although several precautions are in place for a safe shopping environment, both companies said. Sporty’s Catalog Division Vice President John Zimmerman wrote that the company has “indeed seen strength in the online course sales” and prides itself on flexibility. Aircraft Spruce’s Marketing Director Rob Irwin wrote that the volume on internet orders “is normal” and directed customers to review posted guidelines that “strongly discourage” visiting in person. Provisions are in place for customers to pick up items if the orders are phoned in or placed online in advance. PilotMall’s retail store at Lakeland Linder International Airport has closed through March 31, company president Neil Glazer posted on the website March 17. He noted that online business “will proceed as normal.” PilotMall initiated a limited-time book sale March 19.
The Tavares, Florida, Seaplane-A-Palooza scheduled for March 28 and 29 has been canceled. In addition, the Seaplane Pilots Association’s Lakeland, Florida, office will not accept walk-in visitors “until further notice,” nor would staff attend public events “for the foreseeable future.” The group sent an email to members March 16 advising them that the association's services are available via email or telephone.
AOPA has been receiving requests for information from pilots regarding international travel via general aviation airplanes during the global coronavirus pandemic. On March 19, the U.S. State Department advised U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also provides information regarding travel.
The National Air Transportation Association postponed a Certified Quality Control Inspector Workshop scheduled for April 7 and 8 in Chesterfield, Missouri, and an FBO Success Seminar scheduled for April 15 and 16 in New Orleans.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International has postponed its annual conference, previously scheduled for May in Boston.
The Citizen of the World polar circumnavigation is still on track, pilot Robert DeLaurentis wrote from Madrid via email March 15, as coronavirus precautions caught up to residents of Spain. He was optimistic the flight would continue on schedule through northern Europe and to the North Pole at the "end of April or early May" during more favorable weather.
As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continue to warn against public gatherings, aviation museums across the country are closing temporarily. So far, the Owls Head Transportation Museum in Owls Head, Maine; the USS Hornet Sea, Air, and Space Museum in Alameda, California; the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida; the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C., and its Stephen F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia; the Museum of Flight in Seattle; the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City, New York; the Lone Star Flight Museum in Houston; the Air Zoo in Portage, Michigan; the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio; and the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum in Hammondsport, New York; have temporarily closed.
The National Business Aviation Association published guidance March 13 on international business jet flights, U.S. arrival airports, and passenger and crew precautions and preparations.
The Experimental Aircraft Association halted the traveling tour for the group’s historic 1929 Ford Tri-Motor aircraft for one month. The spring tour will begin anew April 16 in Hickory, North Carolina. Flights in Gainesville, Florida, March 19 to 22; Apalachicola, Florida, March 26 to 29; and Milledgeville, Georgia, April 2 to 5, were canceled out of concern for the health of flight crew and passengers.
NBAA canceled the 2020 International Operators Conference scheduled for March 16 through 19 in Charlotte, North Carolina, and announced plans to reschedule the conference as a virtual event. The association also canceled the 2020 Business Aircraft Finance, Registration, and Legal Conference scheduled for March 22 through 24 in Amelia Island, Florida, and shortened and concluded its Schedulers and Dispatchers Conference March 12 due to concerns from the coronavirus pandemic. The European Business Aviation Association and NBAA jointly announced the cancellation of the associations’ 2020 European conference and exhibition (EBACE 2020) in Geneva May 26 through 28, following coronavirus pandemic guidelines from Swiss authorities.
Representatives from major U.S. commercial airports told the White House March 12 they were preparing for at least $3.7 billion in economic losses because of the reduced demand for air travel amid concern for the coronavirus outbreak. Airport directors also discussed measures to protect travelers and airport employees from the spread of COVID-19, The New York Times and Reuters reported.