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Latest news: Coronavirus impact on GALatest news: Coronavirus impact on GA

April 9 updateApril 9 update

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.

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Latest news on the coronavirus

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ERAU campuses temporarily cease flight ops

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.

Flight training continuing at American Flyers

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.

Traffic to aviation jobs service increasing

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 cancels Young Aviators, other events

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.

AOPA Air Safety Institute issues safety notice about ATC zero events

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.

Safecon flight competition canceled

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 goes ‘meals up’

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 offers free coronavirus channel

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 suspends flights

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 R&Ds medical respirator technology

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 to offer virtual classes for middle and high school students

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 Airport Support Network COVID-19 update

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.

The state of Virginia is asking pilots to avoid flying to Tangier Island in the Chesapeake Bay during the coronavirus pandemic. Photo by Chris Rose.

Tangier Island residents seek airport closure

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.

Be careful when cleaning touch screens and devices

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. 

Farnborough International Airshow canceled

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.”

Pilots gather to chat with friends, family, and coworkers during the 2018 Great Alaska Aviation Gathering. Photo by Mike Fizer.

Great Alaska Aviation Gathering scrubbed

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.

ASA temporarily reduces prices for online learning material

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.

PALS reschedules tenth anniversary celebration

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.

Plans for aviation retailers Sporty’s, Aircraft Spruce, PilotMall—Updated March 19

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.

Seaplane-A-Palooza canceled, SPA Florida office closed to public—Updated March 20

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.

International travel discouraged—Updated March 19

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.

NATA postpones workshop, seminar

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.

AUVSI postpones Xponential

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International has postponed its annual conference, previously scheduled for May in Boston. 

‘Citizen’ polar circumnavigation pilot reports in from Spain—Updated March 18

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.

Aviation museums close temporarily—Updated March 27

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.

NBAA posts operational considerations

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. 

One of EAA's two Ford Tri-Motors taxis south to depart from Runway 36 at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2019. Photo by Mike Collins.

EAA Ford Tri-Motor tour on hiatus

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 cancels, shortens conferences

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.

Reduced air travel cuts billions from airports

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.

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