June 19, 2020

The FAA hosted a wide-ranging online discussion June 18 about the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on aircraft operations, airports and infrastructure, as well as steps for the industry’s emergence from the crisis. The General Aviation (GA) Safety Town Hall featured FAA Administrator Steve Dickson and other agency personnel, as well as a broad cross-section of industry leaders.

“From the largest business jet to the sleekest urban helicopter to the smallest single engine piston airplane, GA is the lifeblood of our incredibly flexible and responsive air transportation system,” Dickson said. “It has unique challenges punctuated by the shifting demand and extreme variety and operations, and we at the FAA are committed to working with the industry to ensure its health and viability in this time of fast change and new threats.”

Livestreamed on Facebook and YouTube, the virtual town hall also addressed the ongoing challenges facing the industry, including continued state-by-state quarantine restrictions and changes to airport operations in response to the crisis.

NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen complimented the FAA and Congress for their help addressing critical needs for business aviation, including the implementation of temporary financial relief and operational and regulatory exemptions to assist companies and operators during the crisis. He asked about the agency’s longer-term plans to maintain that support as stakeholders continue to confront unexpected challenges.

“Going forward, I think the onus is really going to be twofold,” responded FAA Deputy Administrator Dan Elwell. “It’s going to be on us, the regulator, to unravel these various regulatory mitigations that we put in place in a thoughtful way … but operators, maintainers and manufacturers also have to be very careful in how they get themselves ready and reengage in normal operation. It’s really going to be a community effort.”

David Dalpiaz, vice president for flight services at Jet Aviation, pointed to business aviation’s $250 billion annual contribution to the U.S. economy and the 1.2 million jobs supported by the industry. He also outlined various changes to his company’s operations in the COVID environment, including sanitizing aircraft and controlling interactions between passengers, flight crews and support personnel to reduce transmission risks.

“As an industry, we are strong and we believe in the unique service we provide to our customers,” he added. “This industry has a pulse and it’s coming back to life. We must not lose sight of the fact that we remain in the midst of a global pandemic, and it is our obligation to adhere to protocols and safety measures we have incorporated into our everyday business.”

The second half of the online discussion focused on returning to the air safely following the months-long grounding of pilots, aircraft and flight operations.