COVID Precautions For Flight Schools – “New Normal”

Aviation has obviously suffered a huge blow with this pandemic. Airline activity is down 95% and most flight schools are shuttered impacting the whole flight training pipeline. Aviation training and careers have gone from the “best of times” for CFIs and pilots to absolutely the worst in a few short months. But the rebound has already started with many schools opening May 1st. Here are all the resources we have to help function with the new precautions.  Bleak times now means more jobs available soon for those that are prepared; opportunity!

The FAA issued an SAFR this week, extending most of the regulatory and training deadlines (your medical, flight review, written test, etc). As we start to train again, it is critical to remember that the threat is still real and dangerous do not make the mistake of minimizing this disease or letting down your guard. Educating staff and ensuring they are serious about new CV-19 SOPs is essential. Your staff reaction will probably vary from “still not flying” to “what is the problem dude?”As with all successful interventions, training and supervision are critical for safe operations and to ensure staff “buy-in” and compliance. The accurate joke is that the most dangerous new virus as we open up is “complacency.”

We know that at least 44% of all infections–and the majority of community-acquired transmissions–occur from people without any symptoms (asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic people). You can be shedding the virus into the environment for up to 5 days before symptoms begin.

MandatoryTestingFlightSchools2Here are some “best practices” from the FAA, CDC and industry to help with your reopening and prevent transmission of the virus. Pilots are  savvy “risk managers” but the enemy of any significant change in operations is “habit” and “business as usual.” This is a “new normal” with careful precautions and new SOPs. We will add and modify this page as new information is received. The manual here is thanks to FSANA and some schools that have continued to operate safely throughout this pandemic (with no new infections). Remember, one COVID case and you are shut down in this new world.

As wide-spread testing becomes available (finally?) this will be a requirement for admission to a flight school (added to the agreement to intelligently self-isolate). All testing/training applicants should sign a form assuring they are serious about avoiding infection both before and during flight operations. And if they start showing symptoms after they flew with you, notification is essential for *your* health!

AOPA New COVID Procedures Manual

AOPA state-by-state summary of COVID restrictions

New FAA SAFO on Flight Crew Operations with COVID

CDC guidelines for all operations. CDC on disinfecting procedures.

FAA COVID website on extensions and changes to requirements

Critical Infrastructure List includes flight schools!

The real hazard of COVID is the asymptomatic transmission (people don’t even know they are sick and are spreading the disease!

Here is a thorough manual some schools have used successfully to operate and provide comfort and confidence for your clients/pilots.

COVID response guide; Wayman Aviation

Here is the guidance from Garmin on sanitizing avionics (avoid ammonia)

Here is a YouTube on sanitizing the airplane. Each plane grounded, cleaned then released after each flight!

Each student and instructor sign a form indicating that they have not traveled by commercial air, have had a temp over 100, been in contact with anyone who has COVID or exhibited symptoms all within the past 14 days.

This clip from Nassau Flyers is an example of the “new normal” in the industry (The tower at KFRG reopened yesterday, the school reopened today!)

PPE (mask) for each occupant, no sharing of any personal items (even pens)!

Limit random “outside” access to aircraft: no IPCs, Intros, and flight reviews (without very careful screening)

Temperature check before every flight (get a point and shoot thermometer) I personally never thought this would be part of my flight kit!

Both student and instructor must elect to fly by their choice, no pressure.

CFI and student must wash hands before and after each flight

Both must bring and wear masks from the time they enter our office to the time they depart after their lesson.

Please share your ideas and comments here to help everyone be safer

Join SAFE and get great benefits (1/3 off ForeFlight!) This supports our mission of increasing aviation safety by promoting excellence in education.  Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App puts required pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smartphone and facilitates CFI+DPE teamwork. Our CFI insurance was developed by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business).

Author: David St. George

SAFE Director, Master CFI (12X), FAA DPE, ATP (ME/SE) Currently jet charter captain.

2 thoughts on “COVID Precautions For Flight Schools – “New Normal””

  1. Airline activity may seem to be down 95% from what one reads, but looking at FlightAware as I write this, there are currently 2,597 airborne aircraft being tracked. Before the pandemic, I usually would see between nine and ten thousand. I think the lowest I saw was 1,800 and change. The US appears covered with flights as usual but of course it’s really at lot lower than normal looking at the count displayed.

    1. Thanks for the comment Warren. I merely took the data presented by the airline industry. I think they are rating “passenger miles” (seats filled and miles flown) rather than airliners airborne. Unfortunately, right now many flights are actually empty (“ghost flights”) or nearly so (whereas they were 80-90% capacity at the end of last year). On the bright side, friends I know are getting a lot of twin time flying the mail the airlines are *not* carrying.
      Any way you look at it, it will be an uphill struggle for airlines after we get this under control. I would say guess many opportunities for pilots once growth picks up…I am optimistic.

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