- 16 Mar 2021
- Andre Fodor
- Flight Dept Mgt
Are you ready for your flight department to return to its pre-covid levels of flying? Have you planned for a surge in demand for your aircraft and pilots? Andre Fodor shares tips from his own operation...Back to Articles
During the enforced hiatus in flying activity for many Business Aviation flight departments over the past several months, we have all been doing our best to stay proficient. Many of us will be trained and ready, ever eager, filled with anticipation for the day that we can return to normal life (and operations) again.
Speaking with colleagues in the charter and fractional ownership business, I am assured there’s plenty of pent-up demand for Business Aviation. Those charter and fractional ownership contacts are reporting that demand is up to nearly 100% of its pre-Covid levels, and that they are adding airplanes, pilots and new customers to their businesses. [Speaking for my flight department, our schedule is full starting mid-year.]
That charter and fractional demand EXCLUDES business travel. Until now, people have primarily been flying for personal reasons. During the recent spring break in the United States, my charter brokerage contacts reported being unable to support any additional requests.
Charter availability was sold out – with most clients flying to tropical and coastal destinations. With that in mind, this is clearly the time for flight department managers and their teams to start preparing for the predicted high demand, once the world (and our executives) resume their flying activities again.
Step 1: Proficiency, First and Foremost
As we ramp-up post-Covid, proficiency should become a key focus. With so much latency from the slow down, it’s possible that pilots, mechanics and flight department office staff could have become a little rusty.
From a flight crew standpoint, there are legal currency matters to address. Let’s make sure our pilots are current for day (and night) flight. Check IFR currency, and review everyone’s medical certificates for validity. You may find it useful to gather everyone together for an enhanced safety brief.
Step 2: Mental and Physical Stock-Taking
This is the ideal time for the maintenance staff to bring up any new operational topics that have arisen during the downturn.
It’s also the time for crew to remove expired, or soon-to-expire goods from the catering closets and check that all on-board equipment is operational, clean and sanitized.
Step 3: Rebuild Your Endurance
Any swimmer would know that after a time without swimming, their endurance in the water is reduced. It’s worth applying similar logic when scheduling long duty days, or lengthy night time flights after our long hiatus.
It takes time for us to get our work endurance levels back.
And as we get vaccinated, plan on most regulatory agencies requiring a minimum 48 hours of ground time before returning a pilot to flight status – and that’s not counting the potential for side effects that could confine your pilot to their bed for several days.
Step 4: Maintain Covid Procedures
Another core element of endurance, as people return to flying, is towards the precautionary safety requirements. We may well experience disregard for wearing masks, hand-washing, and social distancing. The crew must remain alert, sticking rigidly to covid-protection guidelines.
The position of my flight department for the foreseeable future is that we will continue to greet our passengers wearing masks, refrain from hand-shaking, and continue to practice social distancing as much as possible.
We will explain that we are acting in the passengers’ best interest.
Our procedure for crew hotel bookings will also continue. We only book known hotels, with detailed Covid sanitizing procedures. We provide each of our crew with a sanitizing kit containing viral spray, chlorine based wipes, and gloves. We require that before they relax in their hotel rooms, they take time to clean their environment.
We also require that our crew refrain from going to crowed restaurants, and ideally choose to sit outside and in well-ventilated areas.
Our airplanes continue to be sanitized and cleaned according to our original pandemic plan. We use an anti-viral spray after every flight, and fumigate every 14 days using a product designed to create a viral barrier on all surfaces. The goal is to keep everyone healthy without compromising.
Step 5: Vaccination
The media has been reporting the possibility of vaccine passports becoming a requirement for travelling. There is a strong possibility that without a vaccination, access to many destinations could be limited. It is worth encouraging your teams to be proactive in getting vaccinated.
Issues about vaccination requirements for crews, could certainly become contentious at some operations. It may not work for everyone, or every operation, but creative solutions and incentives may be the way to go in this regard.
Gradually, we will see business-related flight operations return to their pre-covid levels. The question is, how will your flight operation have prepared – will you be ready to hit the ground running?
The above steps have been kept deliberately simplistic, to provoke thought that can be tailored to individual flight departments. You may have your own ideas to add to the ‘roadmap’. If so, we’d love to hear them.