The COVID-19 pandemic has hit general aviation, local airports, and the businesses and rural communities that rely on them, particularly hard. Overall, business aviation operations in North America have decreased by 75%, and many general aviation airports have seen traffic reductions of 95% are typical.
General aviation aircraft deliveries in the first quarter of this year were down by 21% compared to the same quarter last year (Wichita Business Journal), and business aircraft deliveries could be reduced by as much as 50% this year (Flight Global).
Several manufacturing companies have made the difficult decision to furlough and lay off employees. Textron Aviation has furloughed 7,000 employees (MSN), GE Aviation has announced it will reduce its global workforce of 52,000 by 25% (AIN Online), and Bombardier intends to lay off 2,500 employees as well (CBS News). Additionally, medical transport flights have decreased by 40% (Association of Air Medical Services).
Leading rural, agricultural, business, and public health organizations released a letter to Congress requesting financial relief for farms and rural communities across the country. To view the letter, click here.
The Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council sent a letter to Congressional Leadership asking for tax relief to be extended to non-commercial general aviation operators. That letter is here.
Most U.S. states have implemented stay-at-home initiatives or shelter in place orders, and many are in some stage of reopening. Operators should review local guidance to ensure that they comply with applicable orders. The New York Times has a state-by-state guide to restrictions and reopening measures.
In response to efforts of local authorities to limit access to airports during the COVID-19 crisis, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued the following guidance to airport sponsors.
The FAA’s primary concern is that federally obligated airports remain safe and open to the traveling public and aircraft. Particularly during this public health emergency, airports play an essential role. The FAA continues to expect all airports to operate safely and to stay open.
The FAA and Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that air carriers and crewmembers take precautions to avoid exposure to COVID-19. A full list of these precautions can be found in the Safety Alert for Operators (SAFO) 20003, COVID-19: Interim Health Guidance for Air Carriers Crews.
Aircraft maintenance workers can be exposed to COVID-19 in a number of ways. Please look at the CDC guidelines on what aircraft maintenance workers need to know about COVID-19.
The FAA has continued to update their website with guidance and new measures for Airports and Aircraft. Those COVID-19 updates can be found here.
Aircraft operators should be aware that in most cases local authorities do not have jurisdiction to close or restrict aeronautical activity at federally obligated airports without direct approval from the FAA. The FAA is making decisions regarding airport activity based on each airport individually. Located here are the FAA Considerations for State, Local, and Territorial COVID-19 Restrictions That Impact Air Transportation.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (H.R. 748, Public Law 116-136) includes $10 billion in funds to be awarded as economic relief to eligible U.S. airports affected by the prevention of, preparation for, and response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the FAA announced the grants under the CARES Act on April 14, the agency has posted a variety of guidance for airport administrators online.
The FAA also published a map of the airports and their grant awards. (A workforce retention requirement applicable to larger airports does not apply to non-hub or non-primary airports).
The FAA invites airport managers who have questions about the program to contact their local airport district office for assistance.
The Paycheck Protection Program is a loan program designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll. The Small Business Administration (SBA) will forgive loans if all employees are kept on the payroll for eight weeks and the money is used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest, or utilities. Here are some commonly asked questions about the PPP loans.
The Transportation Security Administration released a list of COVID-19 resources available to passengers and airports to help them understand and navigate the process and the developing changes in guidance, available here.
The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) has put together a list of techniques and procedures for cleaning and disinfecting an aircraft in the age of COVID-19 that is available here. Also available through NBAA is a webinar with experts on best practices related to sanitizing an aircraft.
The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) similarly has released a webinar on best practices and considerations for the industry here.
For pilots engaging in volunteer public-benefit flying, Air Care Alliance has distributed a whitepaper by two members of the University of Washington medical faculty on safe procedures. That whitepaper can be seen here.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) put together advice and guidance on ground handling during COVID-19 and what to do in various circumstances on their page, available here.
General aviation airports have felt the brunt of the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Choose a state here for accounts from local airports across the country about their impact.